Home » 2019


Dolly Prabhu, A Lifetime for Someone Else’s Crime: The Cruelty of Pennsylvania’s Felony Murder Doctrine, 81 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 439 (2019). Dolly Prabhu argues that the life without parole sentence for felony murder violates Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. Prabhu argues that the most effective solution is to abolish the sentence because the current scheme in Pennsylvania fails to consider individual culpability, does not serve any legitimate penological goals, and often imposes a punishment disproportionate to the severity of the crime.

John Mikhail, The 2018 Seegers Lecture: Emoluments and President Trump, 53 Val. U. L. Rev. 631 (2019). John Mikhail writes that the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Foreign or Domestic Emoluments Clauses are examples of drafting with an intent to prevent corruption, conflicts of interest, and undue influence of federal officials. Mikhail argues that Pennsylvania’s constitution set a strong “anti-corruption” tone for future state constitutions to follow.

Samuel S.-H. Wang et. al., Laboratories of Democracy Reform: State Constitutions and Partisan Gerrymandering, 22 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 203 (2019). Samuel Wang argues that partisan gerrymandering can be remedied through actions in state courts. He cites Pennsylvania’s League of Women Voters v. Commonwealthas an example of a state court using the guarantees of free and equal elections to strike down election-related laws, such as congressional maps.

Jordan Paul, Deliver Us from Evil: Domestic and International Solutions to Clerical Sex Abuse, 36 Ariz. J. Int’l & Comp. L. 501 (2019). Jordan Paul discusses Pennsylvania’s Catholic sex abuse scandal litigation and the grand jury report, which stated that thousands of children had been abused by clergy in the state. Paul argues that Pennsylvania’s grand jury proceeding should be used as a model for other states because it has largely solved important jurisdictional issues. Pennsylvania allows its Attorney General to convene a multicounty grand jury when the crimes at issue, such as sexual abuse crimes, occur over multiple counties within the state.

Scott Douglas Gerber, Law and the Holy Experiment in Colonial Pennsylvania, 12 NYU J.L. & Liberty 618 (2019). Scott Gerber discusses how Pennsylvania’s early Quaker faith influenced the Pennsylvania Constitution. Pacifism was a central focus of William Penn and a fundamental tenet of the State’s constitution. The constitution furthered “the animating principle of religious tolerance.” To this end, Article I, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution declares that all citizens of the Commonwealth have a right to religious freedom. 

Bruce Ledewitz, How State Courts Can Help America Recover the Rule of Law: The Pennsylvania Experience, 82 Alb. L. Rev. 1325 (2019). Professor Bruce Ledewitz argues that at the federal level, skepticism is all-consuming. Justice Scalia embodies this skepticism, or nihilism, which is now a cultural phenomenon. However, at the state level, skepticism is not all-consuming. Pennsylvania has come to perform “value-laden” judgments, which encourage justices to enforce decisions based on constitutional provisions as written, no matter how value-skeptical the justices appear to be. 

Adam Duh, A Breath of Fresh Air for the Keystone State: Pa. Envtl. Def. Found. v. Commonwealth, 161 A.3d 911 (Pa. 2017), 6 Joule: Duq. Energy & Envtl. L.J. 1 (2018). Adam Duh discusses Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation v. Commonwealth, the landmark Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decision on Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The case determined that the Environmental Rights Amendment required certain revenue from state oil and gas leases to remain in the public trust for the use and benefit of the people. 

Ryan P. Driscoll, The Property and Privacy Implications of Act 13: Robinson Twp. v. Commonwealth, 3 Joule: Duq. Energy & Envtl. L.J. 1 (2015). Ryan Driscoll discusses Robinson Twp. v. Commonwealth, the landmark plurality opinion interpreting Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Court declared parts of Act 13, which repealed Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Act and replaced it with a codified statutory framework regulating oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania, unconstitutional. Additionally, Act 13 does not require pre-fracking disclosures. Ultimately, the author argues that pre-fracturing disclosure notices could be compiled and kept securely via an internal database, or accessible through a secure online tool that would allow the public to access the records via a Pennsylvania Right to Know Request.

James T. Knight II, Splitting Sovereignty: The Legislative Power and the Constitution’s Federation of Independent States, 17 Geo. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 683 (2019). James T. Knight II discusses a survey of all state constitutions and determines that Pennsylvania’s constitution is unique in requiring that the legislature act on certain topics, granting the legislature more power than is otherwise necessary for a sovereign state.

Richie Feder & Lewis Rosman, State Preemption of Local Government: The Philadelphia Story, 49 Envtl. L. Rep. News & Analysis 10772 (2019). Richie Feder and Lewis Rosman discuss preemption in Philadelphia, stating that Article IX, Section 2 of the Pennsylvania Constitution grants municipalities like Philadelphia the authority to “frame and adopt home rule charters.” The authors ultimately argue that excessive preemption of local legislation prevents the government from protecting its citizens through avenues such as home rule charters.

Josh Davis, Reassessing the Alternatives: The Elimination of Pennsylvania Property Taxes, the Consequences, and How Property Assessment Laws Could Help, 80 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 687 (2019). Josh Davis argues that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling in Valley Forge Towers Apartments v. Upper Merion Area School District, holding that local entities could not discriminatorily reassess properties in violation of the Uniformity Clause, may have inadvertently hindered local entities’ ability to reassess properties at all. Ultimately, Josh Davis argues for reforming property assessment tax laws in the form of eliminating the base-year method of assessing property taxes and mandating periodic reassessments.

Barry E. Hill, Time for A New Age of Enlightenment for U.S. Environmental Law and Policy: Where Do We Go from Here?, 49 Envtl. L. Rep. News & Analysis 10362 (2019). Barry Hill argues that environmental justice communities (communities with a disproportionate number of environmental issues due to race or economic status) are largely minority communities that need more protection. Davis argues that Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment can serve as a model to other states for how to integrate environmental rights into state constitutions.

Greg Vitali, How a State Senator Blocked Bans on Plastic Bags, The Morning Call (Aug. 14, 2019). Greg Vitali reports that Governor Wolf signed a bill into law on June 28, 2019 to prohibit the Commonwealth and municipalities from regulating single-use plastic bags. This bill is to take effect in one year.

Andrew Chin et. al., The Signature of Gerrymandering in Rucho v. Common Cause, 70 S.C. L. Rev. 1241 (2019). Andrew Chin discusses statistical analyses that identify partisan gerrymandering and quantify its effects. He highlights League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth,in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found a partisan gerrymandered map in favor of the Republican party was a violation of the Free and Equal Elections Clause in Article 1, Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  

Alexander N. Palmer, A Prophecy Misread That Could Have Been: Regulatory Adjudications and A Weakening of the Environmental Rights Amendment in Logan v. Department of Environmental Protection, 30 Vill. Envtl. L.J. 269 (2019). Alexander Palmer discusses the Environmental Rights Amendment through an analysis of Logan v. Department of Environmental Protection, a 2018 case before the Environmental Hearing Board. The Department of Environmental Protection challenged pollution from a soybean processing plant operated by Perdue. Because the Environmental Hearing Board declined to give a definite answer as to whether this practice violated the Environmental Rights Amendment, Palmer argues that the protections proffered by the Amendment were weakened.

Seth F. Kreimer, Still Living After Fifty Years: A Census of Judicial Review Under the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1968, 71 Rutgers U.L. Rev. 287 (2018). Seth Kreimer discusses the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s exercise of judicial review under the Pennsylvania Constitution through an analysis of 373 cases containing claims of unconstitutionality. These cases tended not to be unanimous or without contention. To solve the problems of judicial review, Kreimer argues for a living constitution approach, unrestrained by what the original meaning of the constitution may have been.

Amy McCrossen, Bailout: Leaving Behind Pennsylvania’s Monetary Bail System, 57 Duq. L. Rev. 415 (2019). Amy McCrossen writes that Pennsylvania’s monetary bail system poses legal and financial problems for indigent defendants.  McCrossen argues that the Pennsylvania Constitution should be amended to afford courts authority to detain defendants without the option of bail. She also argues that the Constitution should eliminate the use of monetary bail as a condition for release.

Mike Turzai et. al., The Protection Is in the Process: The Legislative Reapportionment Commission, Communities of Interest, and Why Our Modern Founding Fathers Got It Right, 4 U. Pa. J.L. & Pub. Aff. 353 (2019). Representative Mike Turzai discusses the history of reapportionment of the General Assembly in Pennsylvania, such as when the Assembly changed from a unicameral to a bicameral system.  This process is governed by Article II, Sections 16 and 17 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

John Mikhail, James Wilson, Early American Land Companies, and the Original Meaning of “Ex Post Facto Law”, 17 Geo. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 79 (2019). John Mikhail discusses the emergence of ex post factolaws through an analysis of Professor William Crosskey’s law review article in The University of Chicago Law Review. Professor Crosskey argued that the original criminal-only application of these laws was wrong, and that the laws should apply to civil as well as criminal laws.  According to the author’s argument, Crosskey also stated that Pennsylvania Justices erroneously adopted a criminal-only interpretation in order to aid James Wilson, who needed retroactive bankruptcy protection. 

Rebeka Buczeskie, The Right to Know: What Can Actually Be Disclosed- A Survey of Pennsylvania State Education Association v. Commonwealth, 28 Widener Commonwealth L. Rev. 269 (2019). Rebeka Buczeskie argues there is an implied right to privacy under Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution according to the ruling from Pennsylvania State Education Association v. Commonwealth. This case held that private home addresses are exempt from the Right-To-Know law presumption. 

Adriana T. Vukmanic, Expectations of Privacy in the Right-to-Know Law: A Critical Analysis of the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Right to Privacy’s Implications on Right-to-Know Law Requests,28 Widener Commonwealth L. Rev. 287 (2019). Adrianna Vukmanic discusses an implied right to privacy under Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution through an analysis of Department of Human Services v. Pennsylvanians for Uniform Reform, Inc.The author argues that this holding, which requires a balancing test between the Right-To-Know law analysis and an individual’s constitutional right to privacy, is correct.

Nick Kato, Pennsylvania’s Freedom of Expression Clause and Partisan Gerrymandering, 91 Temp. L. Rev. 365 (2019). Nick Kato argues that while Pennsylvania has attempted to analyzed partisan gerrymandering under the equal protections provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution, it should instead be analyzed under the free expression protections of Article 1, Sections 7 and 20 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Kato’s reasoning is twofold: injury caused by partisan gerrymandering is best recognized as implicating free expression, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reads its constitution’s free speech protections more broadly than those of the Federal Constitution. 

Kacy Manahan, The Constitutional Public Trust Doctrine, 49 Envtl. L. 263 (2019). Kacy Manahan explains that the public trust doctrine guarantees public access to certain natural resources. This doctrine goes hand-in-hand with the Environmental Rights Amendment, Section 27, under Article 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which also recognizes common ownership of public natural resources when outlining the public’s right to such environmental aspects as clean air and pure water. The author looks to the Robinson Townshipand Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundationcases as support for this claim.

Shannon L. Rutherford, Fracking Coal Country: How Local Governments and the State Can Make A Positive Impact on Rural Appalachia’s Future Within the Energy Industry, 107 Ky. L.J. 333 (2019).  Shannon L. Rutherford explains that Pennsylvania’s Act 13, which created a uniform zoning scheme requiring mandatory fracking in every district, which violated section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. This section was interpreted in Robinson Township v. Pennsylvania, which interpreted the Pennsylvania Constitutional provision which gives the public a right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the natural environment. Rutherford argues that Pennsylvania’s approach to such zoning ordinances for fracking can serve as examples for other states.

Maida R. Milone & Julia Jones, How We Select Our Judges, Del. Law. 24 (2018).  Maida R. The authors examine how external influences in judicial election campaigns, such as politics or financial contributions, have undermined voter confidence in the selection process. 

John T. Morgan, Jr., The Coca-Cola Capitation Conundrum: The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Leaves Philadelphians Thirsty for Soda and Certainty in Williams v. City of Philadelphia, 64 Vill. L. Rev. 137 (2019).  John T. Morgan writes about Williams v. Philadelphia in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court applied the preemption doctrine to a city-imposed tax on sugary beverages.  Morgan argues that this case failed to make clear the precise scope of municipal taxing authority. 

Taylor Larson, Joshua Duden, Breaking the Ballot Box: A Pathway to Greater Success in Addressing Political Gerrymandering Through State Courts, 22 CUNY L. Rev. 104 (2019). Taylor Larson and Joshua Duden write that League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealthprovides a roadmap for successful challenges to political gerrymandering.  They note that although the federal challenges and the state challenges differ, gerrymandering can be successfully measured, challenged, and cured in state courts and by state legislatures.  

Chris Chambers Goodman, Class in the Classroom: Poverty, Policies, and Practices Impeding Education, 27 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol’y & L. 95 (2019).  Chris Chambers Goodman writes about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its goals and shortfalls.  He noted William Penn Sch. Dist. v. Pa. Dep’t of Educ.provides a ray of hope for education litigation nationally.