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Article I, Section 1:

Ramirez v. State Bd. of Dentistry, 308 A.3d 368 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2024), per Wallace, J., the Commonwealth Court held that a statute requiring a dentist to obtain a degree from an accredited institution did not violate the state constitution. Article I, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania constitution provides that all people have the right to possess property and pursue happiness, which includes the right to pursue one’s chosen occupation. A statute violates the right to pursue a chosen occupation if it is unreasonable, unduly oppressive, beyond the necessities of the case, or overly broad. However, the court found that the government had a valid interest in protecting the public by ensuring dentists have adequate education and that the statutory requirement was reasonable.

Article I, Section 9:

Commonwealth v. Jenkins, 2024 WL 97339 (Pa. Super. Ct. Jan. 9, 2024), per Bowes, J., the Superior Court held that although a prosecutor improperly discussed during trial that the defendant retained counsel prior to his arrest, such conduct did not amount to a mistrial. The court found that the misconduct was cured because the judge instructed the jury to avoid making any adverse inferences regarding the fact that the defendant exercised his right to counsel under the 6th Amendment. Lazarus, J., dissented and would have found that the prosecutor’s comments infringed upon the defendant’s invocation of his right to counsel and that such infringement was not cured by the trial judge’s instruction because the Pennsylvania Constitution protects even mere internet searches for an attorney.

Article IV, Section 9:

Stewart v. Pennsylvania, 2024 WL 53012 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 4, 2024), per Baylson, J., the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that a prisoner does not have a liberty interest in the possibility of commutation. Article IV, Section 9 of the state constitution states that the governor may commute or pardon any sentence after a favorable recommendation from the Board of Pardons. Although the prisoner’s application for commutation was approved, he did not have a liberty interest because his commutation remained only a possibility until decided upon by the governor.

Article IV, Section 20:

Lara v. Comm. Pa. State Police, 91 F.4th 122 (3d Cir. 2024), per Jordan, J., the Third Circuit held that a case challenging the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act of 1995 (“UFA”) was not moot. The relevant part of the UFA provides that “[n]o person shall carry a firearm upon public streets or upon any public property during an emergency proclaimed by a State or municipal governmental executive.” When the suit was filed in October 2020, Pennsylvania had been in an uninterrupted state of emergency for nearly three years which had the practical effect of preventing most 18-to-20-year-olds from carrying firearms. However, Pennsylvania had recently amended the state Constitution to limit the governor’s authority to issue emergency declarations to twenty-one days. The Third Circuit held that the case was not moot because Pennsylvania’s recent history of declaring multiple emergencies made it reasonably likely that other 18-to-20-year-olds would be banned from carrying guns in public again and that there would not be enough time to litigate a claim if the emergency lasted only twenty-one days.

Article VIII, Section 1:

Natl. Hockey League Players Assoc. v. City of Pittsburgh, 308 A.3d 318 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2024), per Ceisler, J., the Commonwealth Court held that a statute imposing a “facility tax” on nonresident individuals who use a facility to engage in an athletic activity violated the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Uniformity Clause requires that taxes be uniform upon the same class of subjects and is violated when the method for computing a tax produces arbitrary, unjust or unreasonably discriminatory results. The court found that the “facility tax” was unconstitutional because there was not a concrete justification for treating residents and nonresidents as distinguishable classes that may be subjected to different tax burdens.