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Caselaw 2013

Article I. Declaration of Rights

Section 1: Due Process

MCT Transportation, Inc. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, 60 A.3d 899 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013): per Leavitt, J., the court held that Section 5707(b) of the Parking Authority Law was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power because the General Assembly failed to establish standard for the Parking Authority with regard to setting spending limits and fees in violation of the separation of powers. The court also held that the statute violated due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and Article I, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because there is no opportunity for taxicab companies to challenge the fee that they must pay to stay in business, which has the effect of condemning property without a hearing.

Com. v. Harrell, 65 A.3d 420 (Pa. Super. 2013): per Ford Elliott, P.J.E., held that custiodial interrogations do not need to be recorded in order to satisfy the Due Process requirement of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Section 6: Trial By Jury

Commonwealth v. Real Property and Improvements at 2338 N. Beechwood Street Philadelphia, PA 19132, 65 A.3d 1055 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013): per Cohn Jubelirer, J., the court held that Rule 1007.1 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure concerning waiver of a jury trial does not apply where due process concerns are implicated by a quasi-criminal proceeding under the Controlled Substances Forfeiture Act when claimant’s personal residence could be forfeited. Claimant had not been convicted in any criminal proceeding with regard to drug arrests made at the property, and was not informed of her right to a jury trial under Article I, Section 6 in an in rem proceeding pursuant to the Forfeiture Act. The trial court had held that she waived that right under the Rules of Civil Procedure. The court vacated and remanded based on subsequent precedent that was made by the court concerning the quasi-criminal nature of forfeiture proceedings. Judge Simpson concurred in the result only. Judge Pellegrini wrote a concurring opinion in which he listed other rights that a person facing forfieture of property has before the hearing.

Section 8: Search and Seizure

Commonwealth v. Dunnavant, 63 A.3d 1252 (Pa. Super. 2013): per Shogan, J., the court upheld the order granted the suppression motion of the defendant with regard to silent video stills taken when a confidential informant was in the defendant’s home. These video stills of the inside of the home were obtained without a warrant and therefore, were in violation of the right to privacy in the home and in depictions of the home under both the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Section 11: Courts to be Open; Suits Against the Commonwealth

Friends of Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School v. Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals, 61 A.3d 354 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013): per Jubelirer, J., the court held that the retroactive application of 24 P.S.C. § 1722 A(e)(3) would be a violation of Article I, Section 11 because it would impermissibly eliminate a vested right in a tax lein on property that had already been accrued by reversing the obligation to pay those real estate taxes that had already been paid.

Section 13: Bails, Fines and Punishments

Commonwealth v. Batts, 66 A.3d 286 (Pa. 2013): per Saylor, J., the Court held that, juvenile offenders who had a non-final judgement of sentence for murder as off the issuance of Miller v. Alabama, are subject to the mandatory maximum sentence of life imprisonment under 18 Pa.C.S. § 1102(a) with the minimum sentence to be determined by the common pleas court upon resentencing. Juveniles who were convicted on or after the date when Miller was decided are subject to higher mandatory minimum standards and the possibility of life without parole under 18 Pa.C.S. § 1102.1, upon evaluation by the sentencing court using the guidelines identified in Miller. The Court also held that life without parole for a juvenile offender was not cruel and unusual punishment under Article I, Section 13 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Justice Bear wrote a concurring opinion in which he expressed his belief that for the purposes of uniformity in sentencing, the trial court should apply the new statue upon resentencing for appellants whose conviction pre-dated Miller.

Section 17: Ex Post Facto Laws

Berkhimer v. State Employees’ Retirement Board, 60 A. 3d 873 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013): per McCullough, J., the court rejected claims made by petitioner, a former judge who had been subject to disciplinary action for using improper language with staff that included sexual connotations, that the forfeiture of his pension was an unconstitutional impairment of his retirement contract under Article I. Section 17 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and that the forfeiture was a violation of Article V, Section 16(a) prohibiting diminution of judicial salaries during a judge’s term in office. There was no impairment of a contract because, when a public official begins each new term in office, he or she renews the pension contract to include the new term in public service. The renewal of the contract after the 1993 amendments relating to forfeiture put all earnings at risk. Additionally, there was no ex post facto violation of Article I, Section 17 due to the forfeiture. Finally, there was no impermissible diminution of judicial salary, because the forfeiture of a pension takes place after the term in office.

Section 27: Natural Resources and the Public Estate

Robinson Township, Washington County v. Commonwealth, 83 A. 3d 901 (Pa. 2013): per Castille, C.J., held that Act 13, which would regulate oil and gas operations and grant power of eminent domain to natural gas corporations was in violation of the Enivornmental Rights Amendment.

Article III. The Legislature

Section 3: Single Subject Rule

Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners v. Commonwealth, 64 A.3d 611 (Pa. 2013): per Baer, J., reversed the Commonwealth Court and held that the law allowing counties to eliminate the office of jury commissioner was unconstitutional because it violated the single-subject rule of Article III, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The law had been added as an amendment to a bill relating to the sale of personal property by electronic auction and surplus farm equipment. The Court found that, although the label of “powers of county commissioners” was not overbroad, the elimination of the office of jury commissioner by county commissioners was a completely unrelated legislative act

Commonwealth v. Neiman, 84 A 3d 603 (Pa. 2013): per Todd, J., held that an act amending the Megan’s Law defiency judgment procedure violated the Single Subject Rule because the also amended county park police jurisdiction, and the statute of limitations for asbestos claims.

Section 27: Changes in Term of Office or Salary Prohibited

Meade v. City of Philadelphia, 65 A.3d 1031 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013): per McGinley, J., the court held that Appellees Nigro and Goldsmith, appointed members of the Board of the Revision of Taxes, were public officers within the meaning of Article III, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because their duties were set by statute, they were appointed for a fixed term, their duties were quasi-judicial in character, and the Board’s services are an essential part of the taxation system for real estate. As a result, the diminution of the compensation of Nigro and Goldsmith in the middle of their term was in violation of Article III, Section 27.

Ward v. Com., Dept. of Transp., Bureau of Motor Vehicles, 65 A.3d 1078 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013): per Colins, S.J. in a matter of first impression, held that the position of constable is not a governmental or quasi-governmental position under the Vehicle Code and further held that vehicle registration fees did not amount to a prohibited change in income or emolument as set out by Article III, Section 27.

Section 32: Special Legislation

Williams v. Corbett, 916 F. Supp. 2d 593 (M. D. Pa. 2013): per Jones III, J., invokes abstention pursuant to Burford v. Sun Oil, Co., to refrain from deciding plaintiffs’ “special laws” claim because state law review is available and the challenge to Pennsylvania’s Financially Distressed Municipalities Act involves “difficult questions” of purely state law or policy

Article VIII. Taxation and Finance

Section 1: Uniformity

Weissenberger v. Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals, 62 A.3d 501 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013): per Simpson, J., the court held that the appeal taken by the school district to the board, which resulted in an increased assessment on two properties of taxpayer, was not a violation of the Uniformity Clause in the Pennsylvania Constitution because the taxpayer did not show that any of the other properties in the school district were under-assessed. The court also held that the school district’s choice to appeal only the assessments of taxpayer did not constitute “deliberate, purposeful discrimination in violation of the Uniformity Clause.” (Judge Leavitt dissented, finding that other similarly situated properties within the county and the school district were not appealed. As a result, taxpayers assessment value is higher than similarly situated complexes in the county.)

Berks County Tax Collection Committee v. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, 60 A.3d 589 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013): per Pelligrini, J., holding that where one taxpayer earns income both inside and outside of the City of Philadelphia, thus paying EIT on the portion earned within the city, he is not similarly situated with another taxpayer who earns all his income outside the city and is not subject to the non-resident EIT. Thus, there is no violation of the Uniformity Clause