Home » Pennsylvania Constitution in the News – 2007

Pennsylvania Constitution in the News – 2007

Opposing op-ed articles appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer in late October concerning the rejection in the House of a proposed State Commission to study State constitutional reform.  Democratic Representative Dwight Evans supported the formation of the Commission on 10/23/2007, while Republican Representative Curt Schroder opposed it on 10/31/2007.  Representative Evans called the proposed Study overdue.  Representative Schroder called the bill to create the Commission, “delay and obfuscation”.

Duquesne Law Professor Ken Gormley urged the retention of judges in the November 6 election: “Judging the Judges”, 2007 WLNR 21240880, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2007.

Colin McNickle suggests that recent instances of government subsidies to private companies may violate Article VIII, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution: “Lessons Unlearned 10 Years On”, 2007 WLNR 21248722, Pittsburgh Tribune Review,  10/28/2007.

Paul Carpenter comments on proposed State Constitutional Amendment prohibiting teacher strikes: “Before Outlawing Teacher Strikes”…, 2007 WLNR 20616276, Morning Call, 10/19/2007.

The Associated Press reported on October 9, 2007 that former Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen, who was impeached and removed from office in 1994, has filed a lawsuit seeking pension benefits he claims were improperly denied to him.

Several media outlets reported on 9/8-9/9/2007 concerning the ongoing controversy over the authority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to suspend a sitting judge in the context of the recent suspension of Judge Joyce.

In a decision without a majority opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, on 6/20/2007, upheld the action of Judge James of the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas in granting a media request for a copy of an audiotape that was played at a preliminary hearing recording conversation among defendant, victim, and victim’s boyfriend.  Justice Saylor’s opinion announcing the judgment of the Court held that the tape is a “public judicial record”. (Commonwealth v. Upshur, __ A.2d __, 2007 WL 1771555 (Pa. 6/20/2007)).

Judge R. Stanton Wettick of the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas ruled on June 6 that the base year assessment system permitted by State law is a violation of the tax uniformity provision, Art. VIII, section 1, of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The ruling will be stayed to allow the County to appeal the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

On 5/16/2007, in regard to a suit challenging aspects of the Code of Judicial Conduct in Pennsylvania, Citizen Link reported the following:

“A federal judge Monday granted a preliminary injunction against Pennsylvania’s rules of judicial conduct, making way for judicial candidates to answer questions about their views on legal and political issues prior to an election.”  Pennsylvania Judges Can Answer Political Questionnares.

It was widely reported in the media on Friday, 4/20/2007, that the State Senate voted 49-1 to pass legislation aimed at cutting the tie between state and federal judicial salaries that had been part of the pay raise legislation of 2005.  The legislation now goes to the House.

It was widely reported in the media that the Philadelphia City Council voted on Thursday, 3/15, to place a referendum on the ballot at the May 15 Primary election asking whether the City Charter should be amended to ban casinos within 1,500 feet of homes, churches and schools.  This change would apparently invalidate current plans for Philadelphia casinos.  The referendum raises significant State preemption issues and will be challenged in court.

On April 13, 2007, in a per curiam order without opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a preliminary injunction forbidding Philadelphia from placing the anti-casino referendum on the May 15 primary ballot.

On Friday, March 2, 2007, Erie County Common Pleas Judge John Bozza ruled that the Erie County indoor public smoking ban was preempted by state law.  Earlier, on December 22, 2006, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Michael A. Della Vecchia upheld portions of an Allegheny County smoking ban against a similar preemption challenge.  According to a story in the Erie Times-News, Judge “Della Vecchia called the pre-emption issue a ‘legal quagmire.’ ‘If 10 different judges look at this matter, there could be 10 different opinions.'”

The media reported widely on the first of several hearings scheduled by the Senate Committee on State Government on the subject of a possible limited state constitutional convention.  The hearing was held on 2/22/2007 at Duquesne University School of Law.  The co-directors of this web site, Dr. Joel Fishman and Professor Bruce Ledewitz, both testified.

It was widely reported on 2/16/2007 that a panel of Commonwealth Court ruled that Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin must take the eleven percent pay raise the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reinstated for the judiciary.

Colin McNickle argues in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on January 21, 2007, that several recent actions by Governor Rendell and legislative leaders violate the Pennsylvania Constitution: A “Novel” Concept to Grasp.