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Summaries of Caselaw - 2008

Methodological Provisions:

Dillon v. Homeowner's Select, Affinity Insurance Services, Inc., 957 A.2d 772 (Pa.Super. 2008): in a matter of first impression, the panel, per Donohue, J., held that the Equal Rights Amendment (Article I, Section 28 of the Pennsylvania Constitution) does not create a private cause of action for money damages against a private employer in a claim of gender-based discrimination.

Article I: Declaration of Rights

    Section 8: Search and Seizure

Commonwealth v. Sam, 952 A.2d 565 (Pa. 2008): the Court, per Castille, C.J., held that Article I, Section 8 does not provide a greater right for a mentally incompetent inmate to refuse anti-psychotic medication for the purpose of rendering the inmate competent to participate in post-sentencing proceedings than did the parallel federal right determined by the United States Supreme Court in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003).  (Baer, J. & Todd, J. dissented).

Commonwealth v. Grahame, 947 A.2d 762 (Pa.Super. 2008): in the course of an analysis of the federal Fourth Amendment, a divided panel, per Klein, J., rejected an analogous State Constitutional claim by stating that an expansion of rights under the State Constitution over applicable federal rights will only be found "where there is a compelling reason to do so", quoting Commonwealth v. Gray, 503 A.2d 921 (Pa. 1985); this standard appears to be in tension with the four-part analytical framework utilized in Commonwealth v. Edmunds, 586 A.2d 887 (Pa. 1991) and with fair consistency since then in State Supreme Court opinions.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court subsequently reversed, in an opinion by Justice Orie Melvin, Commonwealth v. Grahame, 7 A.3d 810 (Pa. 11/10/2010), on federal Fourth Amendment grounds.  The majority opinion noted that an Article I, Section 8 analysis follows the federal analysis in stop and frisk cases; Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. (1968).

    Section 21: Right to Bear Arms

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 128 S.Ct. 2783 (2008): the Court, per Scalia, J., relying in part on the wording and interpretation of Article I, Section 21 (originally, Pa. Declaration of Rights § XIII), interpreted the federal Second Amendment as creating an individual right to bear arms for self-defense.  (Stevens, Souter, Breyer & Ginsburg, JJ. dissented).  In Mcdonald v. Chicago, 130 S.Ct. 3020 (2010), the U.S. Supreme Court, per Alito, J., held that the federal Second Amendment "right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense" is fully applicable to the States by virtue of the federal Fourteenth Amendment.

    Section 27: Environmental Protection

Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania v. Pennsylvania Game Commission, 950 A.2d 1120 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2008): the court, per Simpson, J., denied preliminary objections to standing of plaintiffs to challenge management of State deer herd, apparently based in part on Article I, Section 27, granting legal interest to citizens in State wildlife.

Article II: The Legislature

    Section 7: Ineligibility by Criminal Convictions

Commonwealth ex rel. Pennsylvania Attorney General Corbett v. Griffin, 946 A.2d 668 (Pa. 2008): the Court, per Saylor, J., held that all felonies qualify as "infamous crimes" for purposes of removal from office in a quo warranto proceeding and that this section applies to judges, including conduct that occurred prior to the beginning of the judge's term of office.  These holdings are in the nature of reaffirmations of prior caselaw, but Justice Saylor's opinion reconsidered the issues.

Article IV: The Executive

    Section 16: Partial Disapproval of Appropriation Bills

Jubelirer v. Rendell, 953 A.2d 514 (Pa. 2008): the Court, per Castille, C.J., seemed to confirm that the Edmunds four-factor analysis will only be used in State constitutional analysis of provisions parallel to those found in the United States Constitution.  On the merits of the case the Court held that Article IV, Section 16 does not permit the Governor to veto language defining a specific appropriation unless the Governor vetoes the funding itself.  [Thanks to Donald Marritz for the heads up.]  Some of the language concerning Edmunds follows: "[W}e have been precise in explaining that it is when a matter calls for this kind of comparative constitutional analysis that we turn to the four Edmunds factors for guidance...In contrast, this Court is sometimes presented with cases requiring us to interpret a provisioN of the Pennsylvania Constitution that lacks a counterpart in the U.S. Constitution.  In such cases, because there is no federal constitutional text or federal caselaw to consider, we have not engaged in the four-factor analysis set forth in Edmunds."

Article V: The Judiciary

    Section 1: Separation of Powers

Washington County v. Washington Court Association of Professional Employeess, AFL-CIO, 948 A.2d 271 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2008): the panel, per Smith-Ribner, upheld an arbitration award increasing the paid work hours for probation officers; the award does not implicate the ability of the court below to carry out its constitutional functions.  (Kelly, S.J. dissented).

    Section 10: Judicial Administration

Commonwealth v. McMullen, 961 A.2d 842 (Pa. 2008): per Eakin, J., the Court held that 42 PaC.S. Section 4136(a), which granted a right to a jury trial for indirect contempt for alleged violation of a restraining order or injunction, was unconstitutional as an infringement of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's exclusive authority to prescribe rules of procedure; the Court also held that Section 4136(b), which limited the punishment for indirect contempt to 15 days in jail, was unconstitutional as an infringement of the inherent authority of the courts of Pennsylvania. (Saylor, J. dissented in part).