Home » Pennsylvania Constitution in the News – 2014

Pennsylvania Constitution in the News – 2014

On November 11, 2014, Rich Lord of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Philadelphia Inquirer have filed petitions to keep the proceedings involving a dispute between Richard Mellon Scaife’s descendants and three trustees open to the public. The papers argue that the proceedings could affect funds the trust was supposed to give to various charities while Trib Total Media president Ralph Martin maintains the petition is an “attempt to determine the full extent of the financial legacy of Mr. Scaife’s support of his newspaper,” the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
See Newspapers to Ask Court to Keep Scaife Trust Hearings Open

On November 10, 2014, Melissa Daniels of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported that Pittsburgh was one of several Pennsylvania cities and five state lawmakers to bring a suit to stop enforcement of a new gun law that would “broaden [the class] who can sue cities over gun ordinances that are tougher than state law.” This class of new plaintiffs includes membership groups like the NRA. The suit alleges that the gun law violates the state Constitution’s “single subject” and “original purpose” clauses since the gun law was added into a bill that the plaintiffs allege was for an unrelated purpose.
See Pittsburgh Among Plaintiffs Accusing State of Approving Unconstitutional Law for NRA

On November 10, 2014, Daniel Kelley of Reuters reported that Mumia Abu-Jamal several rights groups have filed a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania law that “allows crime victims and prosecutors to take legal action to prevent prisoners from making public statements that cause mental anguish.” This law was passed after criticism of Mumia being allowed to give a graduation speech by phone at Goddard College in Vermont. The law is being challenged as a violation of his right to free speech. Mumia is serving a life sentence for murdering Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
See Pennsylvania Inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal Sues Over State Speech Law

On November 5, 2014, Karen Langley of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Harrisburg Bureau reported that three Pennsylvania state senators had sued Governor Corbett over his vetoing of “portions of the fiscal code” which accompanies the state budget, as well Gov. Corbett’s alleged refusal to give notice to his line item vetoes in the code and budget itself. The vetoes at issue occurred in July 2014 when Gov. Corbett vetoed $65 million in funding for the General Assembly and $7.2 million for other funds. The state senators allege that the state constitution does not allow for the types of vetoes the Governor used in the fiscal code.
See Pennsylvania Senate Leaders Sue Corbett Over Funding Veto

On Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, professor Joseph Mistick of Duquesne University School of Law wrote in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review about the suspension of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery by his fellow justices. Prof. Mistick shares his opinions on Chief Justice Castille’s verbose concurring opinion to the order of suspension and Justice Todd’s dissent, which called for the entire matter to be heard by the Judicial Conduct Board instead of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
See Swift Justice

On October 19, 2014, Joshua Vaughn of The Sentinel reported that students in the Cumberland Valley and South Middleton School Districts who wanted to participate in sports, other extra-curricular activities, or obtain a parking permit must agree to be “potentially” drug tested. The tests are being used to detect illegal drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and opiates. Opponents of this testing argue that the Pennsylvania Constitution requires policies for why the testing is necessary and for who is subject to the tests.
See High Marks: Midstate Schools Explore Drug Testing

On October 18, 2014, Rick Wills of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported about the proposed plan for Rex Energy to place a natural gas drilling pad on Butler Township’s Krendale Golf Course. Opponents are upset that Butler Township has not amended its local drilling ordnances in the wake of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Robinson Township. Butler Township’s old ordnances that were in place before it was required to comply with Act 13 would not have allowed Rex Energy to drill on the golf course.
See Placement of Planned Drilling Pad Questioned

On October 15, 2014, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Pennsylvania Senate had approved a bill that would give standing to “membership groups” to sue municipalities over local gun regulations. Supports state that the bill is an effort to have consistent gun laws across the state and that many of the regulations were already unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Uniformity Clause. Opponents believe that the bill was passed at the behest of gun lobbying organizations and is not in the best interests of the citizens of Pennsylvania
See Senate Approves Bill to Allow Gun Groups Standing to Sue Over Local Laws

On October 1, 2014, Mary Pilon of the New York Times reported on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg’s requirement “that boys on its school wrestling teams forfeit matches against female opponents” and “bars girls from school tackle football and rugby teams.” This rule comes after a female middle school student won a lawsuit to participate on her school’s male wrestling team, stating that it violated the Pennsylvania Constitution and the 14th Amendment. A spokesman for the diocese “said safety and modesty were the primary factors” in creating these rules.
See With Ban on Wrestling Between Boys and Girls, Diocese Faces a Crossroads

On September 29, 2014, Liz Navratil of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the backlog of civil cases in Pennsylvania had been reduced by 19 percent since Chief Justice Ronald Castille asked counties to make plans to reduce the backlog in January 2012. Chief Justice Castille stated two main factors for the backup as “a failure to purge old cases that have since closed and a limit on the amount of power judges have to set civil court case schedules.”
See Pa. reducing backlog of civil cases, chief justice says

On September 20, 2014, Rick Wills of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported that Butler Township commissioners approved zoning changes to allow an Energy company to drill for natural gas on a golf course. The commissioners have stated that they “[do not] like the plan,” but passed it believing that they are “compl[ying] with the township and state regulations.” A group that opposes the zoning changes, Section 27 Alliance, stated that they may file suit because they believe the changes violate the Pennsylvania Constitution.
See Commissioners OK gas-drilling plan

On September 18, 2014, RegAlert reported that new rules governing the “Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges” had been adopted and are in full affect. The order rescinded the old rule numbers 1-15 and 23 and replaced them with the new regulations.
See Adoption of New Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges

On September 12, 2014, The Citizen’s Voice reported that Harrisburg attorney Andy Ostrowski filed a lawsuit alleging that the entire Pennsylvania court system violates the United States Constitution. Mr. Ostrowski stated that Article 5, Section 10(c) of the Pennsylvania Constitution “vested all authority over the judiciary in the judiciary itself, largely to the exclusion of the other two branches of government,” which he alleges violates Article IV of the United States Constitution, which “guarantees a ‘republican form of government,’ which is a government where the people themselves are the sovereign, and all powers derive from them.”
See Harrisburg Attorney Files Lawsuit Against PA Supreme Court

On September 10, 2014, Martha Woodall of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was about to have oral argument in a case involving the power the “School Reform Commission has to manage charter school growth in the financially distressed” Philadelphia School District. The West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School argues that the SRC “illegally suspended parts of the state School Code to cap charter school enrollment and then threatened to close schools that did not sign agreements with enrollment maximums.” In addition, the charter schools seeks to have the state law which allowed the SRC to take over the district held unconstitutional because there are no standards to guide the suspensions of parts state school code. The SRC’s actions are being defended as “necessary to help the cash-strapped district right its finances.”
See Court to hear arguments Phila. district violated Pa. constitution

On September 10, 2014, Eric Boehm of the Pennsylvania Independent reported that parents are suing the state Secretary of Education for her refusal to act on over 800 complaints the parents have filed regarding the Philadelphia public schools. The parents allege that Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq failed to abide by her obligation to investigate the formal complaints made about staff layoffs, school supplies reductions, and inadequate school facilities. The Pennsylvania Constitution requires the state to be responsible for a “thorough and efficient system of public education.”
See Parents Sue Over Philadelphia Schools

On August 21, 2014, Leo M. Mulvihill, Jr, Esq., writing for the PhillyLawBlog.com, reported that one of Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing statutes was found unconstitutional. In Commonwealth v. Newman, the Superior Court held that a statute which required a “mandatory 5-10 years for a person found in possession of a firearm and drugs,” where a judge only has to find possession of a gun by a preponderance of the evidence to increase the mandatory minimum sentence, was unconstitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Alleyne v. United States. Alleyne held “that all facts that increase a mandatory minimum sentence must be submitted to a jury and found true beyond a reasonable doubt.”  See Pa Superior Court: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Scheme “Unconstitutional”

Commonwealth v. Hackett, 2014 WL 4064039 (Pa. Aug. 18, 2014): per Stevens, J., held that “evidence did not support [a] post-conviction court’s determination that defendant was mentally retarded.” This inmate had challenged his death sentence by pleading that he was mentally retarded and therefore could not be executed in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Atkins v. Virginia. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote that since the legislature has not passed any laws on how to follow the Supreme Court’s holding in Atkins, the State Supreme Court exercises “its constitutional power of judicial administration in the interim to set forth procedures to implement the Atkins decision in Pennsylvania.” Pursuant to this power, the court has established a test for challenging their death sentence under Atkins: the “defendant may establish ‘mental retardation’ by showing that he has limited intellectual functioning, significant adaptive limitations, and the onset of his sub-average intellectual functioning began before he turned 18 years old.”

On August 15, 2014, Gary Haber of the York Daily Record reported that “part owners of a shopping center who wanted to lease space there for a strip club have filed a federal lawsuit against Chanceford Township officials for denying them a zoning permit” in violation of their free speech rights under the First Amendment and Pennsylvania Constitution. The application was denied despite the existence of “an adult oriented facility” use in the township’s zoning ordinances and the club’s application meeting the criteria for an exemption. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a ruling that the ordinance is question is unconstitutional.
See Federal lawsuit challenges Chanceford Township’s denial of permit for proposed strip club

On August 5, 2014, Andrew Staub of the Pennsylvania Independent reported that lawmakers and environmentalists are lobbying Governor Corbett to stop oil and gas drilling in around 25,000 acres of the Loyalsock State Forest. The Governor has stated that since oil companies own the mineral rights to the land, the companies must be given “reasonable access to drill” on the state lands. See Corbett Adviser: It’s ‘Myth’ PA Can Block Drilling in Loyalsock State Forest

On August 3, 2014, Gary Weckselblatt of the Bucks County Courier Times reported on the ongoing controversy over the pension plans for Pennsylvania’s public employees. In discussing possible reforms for the plans, Governor Corbett’s 2010 campaign plan was discussed, which would have shrunk “benefits that have not already been accrued for those already in the work force.” Critics of the plan asserted that the plan would violate Article 1, Section 17 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the plan was dropped.  See Financial Experts: State Pensions ‘Unsustainable’

On July 12, 2014, RegAlert reported that Rule 2.11 of the Code of Judicial Conduct was being amended. This rule, which governs judicial disqualifications in cases, is being amended to highlight that judges should “disclose on the record information that the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might reasonably consider relevant to a possible motion for disqualification, even if the judge believes there is no basis for disqualification.” One of the reasons for this rule change is to make the disclosure of contributions from PACs part of the information judges need to disclose when a motion for disqualification is considered. See State: PA Action: The Courts – Rules and Regulations Department: Judicial Conduct

Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v. Aichele, — F.3d —, 2014 WL 3294855 (3d Cir. July 9, 2014): per Jordan, J., held that non-major political parties had standing to challenge ballot access statues in Pennsylvania. Specifically, the non-major parties can challenge title 25, sections 2911(b) and 2937 of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes, which create the procedure for which non-major parties can get on the ballot and ways that private citizens can object to non-major party inclusion on the ballot. The decision reversed the holding of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

On July 8, 2014, Max Mitchell of The Legal Intelligencer reported that the legal community of Pennsylvania was a major reason that the state Senate removed language from SB 324 that would have reduced the number of state Supreme Court justices by two and the Superior Court by four. State Senator Matt Smith stated that the state’s legal community educated the legislatures about the effect the cuts would have on the appellate courts’ caseloads. The language was originally inserted into a bill that had only sought to reduce the size of the state legislature. See Push From Community Helps Reverse Proposal To Cut Judges

On July 8, 2014, Max Mitchell of The Legal Intelligencer reported that Erie County Court of Common Pleas judge Stephanie Domitrovich has been charged by the Judicial Conduct Board with misconduct. Specifically, she is alleged to have yelled at parties, initiated ex parte communications and “was dismissive, sarcastic, impatient, undignified, and discourteous to parties.” In total, she faces six charges and the board requested that she be suspended by the court. See Erie County Judge Charged With Conduct Violations

On July 7, 2014, The Associated Press reported that some Pennsylvania state lawmakers believe that the current budget proposal, which covers topics from oil and gas drilling regulation to the allocation of funds for public schools, violates the single subject provision of the State Constitution. Aids for Republican lawmakers have said that “courts have allowed the Legislature’s practice of creating a wide-ranging fiscal code bill that guides how money from a general appropriations bill is to be spent, as long as each subject is linked by clear wording to how the money is spent.” See Wide-Ranging Budget Bill Could End Up In Court

On June 29, 2014, Dylan Segelbaum of the Philadelphia Daily News reported that a motion granting bail for a man charged with six counts of 3rd degree murder in connection with a building collapse in Philadelphia last year was denied. Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner stated that Article 1, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania state Constitution does not allow bail to be granted to someone who faces the possible sentence of life in prison or death. Judge Lerner added that while this was a “sad case for all,” that “courts are not free to make their own rules.” See Bail Denied For Building-Collapse Contractor

On June 27, 2104, Zack Needles of The Legal Intelligencer reported that the Pennsylvania Senate has rejected a major cut to the state judiciary. Specifically, the senate approved an amendment to SB 324 which removed language from the bill that would have reduced the number of state Supreme Court justices by two and the Superior Court by four. The amendment was introduced by Senate State Government Committee Chair Lloyd Smucker after the cuts to the judiciary were criticized by attorneys in Pennsylvania for having the potential to further burden the appellate court’s caseload. Had the bill passed, it would have required the state constitution to be amended. See Pa. Senate Rejects Major Cut To Judiciary

Staple v. Com., Dep’t of Corr., 2014 WL 2927286 (Pa. Commw. Ct. June 26, 2014): per Colins, J., held, in part, that an inmate could not “state a mandamus claim pursuant to” Pennsylvania’s Religious Freedom Protection Act (RFPA). The inmate had sought the order to require the prison to return his religious books that had been confiscated because the prison deemed them to be altered. The court stated that while RFPA “was enacted in order to provide more protection to the exercise of religious beliefs than that currently afforded by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution,” the ability for prisoners to use the statute was limited and that there could be no violation if the government action “is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests, including the deterrence of crime, the prudent use of institutional resources, the rehabilitation of prisoners or institutional security.”

On June 26, 2014, Joseph A. Slobodzian of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Pennsylvania state Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery has been cleared by the F.B.I. of any wrongdoing in a scandal involving his wife and her financial relationships with personal injury law firms who’s cases were heard in front of the state Supreme Court. She had received referral fees from these firms who had cases in front of the court and the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Justice McCaffery did not disclose these fees. He and his wife are currently suing the paper for defamation for the paper’s reporting on the subject. See Report: Lawyer Says FBI ‘Cleared’ Justice McCaffery

On June 26, 2014, The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) announced that former State Senator Franklin Kury will be presented with the Ralph W. Abele Conservation Heritage Award for his “lasting conservation impact as the author and champion of Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.” The PFBC stated that the amendment, also known as the Environmental Rights Amendment, is “one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation ever passed in the state.” The award is the highest honor the PFBC can give someone for distinguishing themselves in “the cause of conservation.” See PFBC To Present Franklin Kury With Ralph Abele Conservation Heritage Award

On June 23, 2014, Kate Giammarise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s investigation on the delay in bringing charges against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky was not motivated by any political considerations by former attorney general and current governor Tom Corbett. The probe did find that prosecutors should have acted more quickly in the investigation, including search Sandusky’s home much earlier in the investigation. See Politics Had No Role In Sandusky Inquiry

On June 20, 2014, Paula Reed Ward of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has nominated Judge Bill Ward to a spot on the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. The nomination comes after Judge Ward lost an election to the same position in November, which would have given him a ten year term on the bench. Judge Ward’s nomination must still be confirmed by the state Senate and his term would run until January 2016. See Judge Who Lost Election Nominated For Spot On Common Pleas Court

On June 17, 2014, Konstantine Fekos of The Meadville Tribune reported about a non-discrimination ordinance the Meadville City Council is considering. A group of the town’s citizens are opposing the ordinance, specifically opposing the references to sexual orientation and gender identity that would be included. The group, “Protect Our Religious Right of Conscience,” states that the ordinance would violate their rights under Article 1, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which states that “no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of the conscience.” See Petition Created In Opposition Of Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

On June 7, 2014, Global Data Point reported that the attorney for former Washington County judge Paul Pozonsky wants Washington County President Judge Debbie O’Dell to testify about an administrative order she signed that allowed police to search and seize evidence that lead to Judge Pozonsky being charged with various offenses. Judge Pozonsky’s attorney asserts that since no search warrant was issued for these searches and seizures, the evidence should be thrown out as a violation of the 4th Amendment and the Pennsylvania Constitution. See Pozonsky Lawyer Presses For President Judge’s Testimony

On June 5, 2014, Amy Worden of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee passed a resolution that would reduce the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from seven to five justices and eliminate two judgeships on the Superior Court. This bill is a series of several proposed Constitutional Amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution aimed at reducing the size and budget of Pennsylvania’s government, which also includes cutting the number of state senators and representatives, as well as eliminating the office of the lieutenant governor. The bill is expected to be voted on by the full State Senate before the end of the month. See Senate Committee: Cut Lawmakers, Judges, Lieutenant Governor

Commonwealth v. Alicia, — A.3d —, 2014 WL 2208138 (Pa. May 28, 2014): per McCaffery, J., the court held that “expert testimony on the phenomenon of false confessions would impermissibly invade the jury’s exclusive role as the arbiter of credibility.” In this holding, based on Pennsylvania evidence law, the Court decided that that the issue of a false confession “is best left to the jury’s common sense and life experience, after proper development of relevant issues [of] the particular circumstances surrounding the elicitation of his confession.” In a dissenting opinion which Justice Todd also joined, Justice Saylor states “the better approach is to trust our trial judges to make fair and just decisions on admissibility of expert evidence.”

On June 3, 2014, Zack Needles of The Legal Intelligencer reported that the Commonwealth Court in the case Board of Commissioners of Bedford County v. Ling, held that the president judge of the Bedford County Court of Common Pleas “has no authority to withhold from the county treasury money in certain court-controlled funds.” The opinion written by Judge P. Kevin Brobson specifically held that the president judge could not withhold funds from the county’s supervisory, DUI, and fines/forfeiture funds. The opinion also noted that the case may be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. See Court Says President Judge Doesn’t Control County Funds

On May 29, 2014, the States News Service reported that the Pennsylvania’s Senate State Government Committee will consider two bills that would reduce the size of the Pennsylvania legislature. Committee Chair Senator Lloyd Smucker stated the committee will consider an amendment to Senate Bill 324, which lowers the number of state senators from 50 to 45 and review House Bill 1234, in which the state house of representatives reduced the number of districts from 203 to 153. Both bills would require a constitutional amendment, which the voters would decide through a referendum. See Senate State Government Committee To Consider Proposals To Reduce Size Of Legislature

On May 28, 2014, Mark Scolforo, of The Associated Press reported in the Delaware County Times that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled in Commonwealth v. Walker that criminal defendants may introduce “expert testimony about the reliability of eyewitness identification.” Justice Debra Todd wrote the opinion for the Court, which ended a 20 year period in which Pennsylvania had a per se rule that such expert testimony was inadmissible, stating “[t]wenty years of advances in scientific study have strongly suggested that eyewitnesses are apt to erroneously identify a person as a perpetrator of a crime when certain factors are present.”  See Ruling In Pa. Allows Expert Testimony On Eyewitness ID

On May 23, 2014, Chris Togneri and Mike Wereschagin of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Governor Tom Corbett signed an executive order that allows for gas drilling under state forests and parks, but bans “drilling that would result in long-term surface disturbances.” In allowing gas companies “to drill horizontally from wells on properties adjacent to state lands, or on land the state leased,” Gov. Corbett stated that this is a “balanced approach” that both protects “special characteristics and habitats” of the state lands and also “provide[s] for historic investments” in various governmental programs. See Corbett Allows Drilling Under State Lands

On May 21, 2014, Kate Giammarise and Gideon Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Governor Tom Corbett will not appeal the decision in Whitewood v. Wolf, written by federal district court Judge John E. Jones III, which struck down Pennsylvania’s Marriage law, which prevented same-sex couples from marrying in the state. Gov. Corbett stated that “[g]iven the high legal threshold set forth . . . in this case, the case is extremely unlikely to succeed on appeal.” See No Appeal of Pa. Gay Marriage Rulin

On May 20, 2014, Rich Lord of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Pennsylvania’s marriage law, which prevented gay couples from marrying in Pennsylvania, as well as not recognizing same sex marriages from other states, was held unconstitutional as a violation of both the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment. U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III wrote the opinion, stating that “the classification imposed by the Marriage Laws based on sexual orientation is not substantially related to an important governmental interest.” The can be appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. See Same-Sex Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional in Pennsylvania

On May 18, 2014, Chris Brennan of the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Dennis Kilderry’s campaign for 173rd state House seat in Northeast Philadelphia may be in jeopardy because of past felony convictions. In 1994, Kilderry pleaded guilty to attempted car theft among other charges stemming from an attempt to steal a car. Current Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, who reviewed the plea, explained “that car break-ins are often pursued as misdemeanors but attempted car thefts are treated as felonies.” The Pennsylvania Constitution does not allow “felons” to be elected officials. See NE Philly Dem’s Past A Problem

On May 8, 2014, Brad Bumsted of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported that Governor Tom Corbett will not appeal a state court’s ruling against the voter ID laws the governor signed into law in 2012. Gov. Corbett stated that while he believes the court’s opinion does constitutionally permit a voter ID requirement, that “changes must be made to address accessibility to photo identifications.” See Corbett Won’t Appeal State Court Ruling That Struck Down Voter ID Law

On May 5, 2014, P.J. D’Annunzio of The Legal Intelligencer, reported of statements made by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D Castille in relation to criticism of federal defenders and the handling of death-penalty appeals. Chief Justice Castille stated that the problem was not a systemic one as reported, and that some of the blame can be placed on federal judges as well. See Federal Judges Share Blame for Long Capital Cases, Castille Says

On May 2, 2014, Zach Needles, of The Legal Intelligencer, reported that The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ruled in Commonwealth v Gary, holding that police officers with probable cause, but without a warrant, may search an automobile even where that are no exigent circumstances, thereby adopting the federal standard. The opinion, written by Justice Seamus P McCaffery states that there is “no compelling reason to interpret the state constitution as affording greater protection than the U.S. Constitution.” Justice McCaffery is reported as stating that adopting the federal standard would clear up decades of “fractured jurisprudence” regarding warrantless vehicle searches and allow police officers to make decisions in high-pressure situations See Justices Broaden Standard For Warrantless Auto Searchs

On March 18, 2014, Max Mitchell, of The Legal Intelligencer, reported on state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s statements during a press conference regarding a corruption investigation of leading state officals from Philadelphia allegedly taking bribes and kickbacks. At the press conference Kane cited the tainted credibility lead witnesses along with evidence of racial targeting as major sources in Kane’s office shutting down the investigation. See Kane: Phila. Corruption Case was ‘Dead’ Before Her Arrival

On March 18, 2014, Zach Needles, of The Legal Intelligencer, reported that on March 12 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard arguments over whether the General Assembly has the power to overturn a court ruling through retroactive legislation. Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille was quoted as saying the legislature can change a law going forward but he was skeptical as to the legislature’s power to overturn a court’s ruling. See Pa. Justices Mull Legislature’s Power to Overturn Court Rulings

On February 21, 2014, Michael Sanserino, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reported that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied an appeal from the Corbett administration seeking reconsideration on its decision finding Act 13 unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania State Constitution. See Pa. High Court Won’t Reconsider Decision on State Oil and Gas Law

On January 21, 2014, Saranac Hale Spencer reported that the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has ruled the Voter ID law unconstitutional. In the opinion, stated as not reported, Judge Bernard L McGinley stated “Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the voter ID law does not further this goal.” In his opinion McGinley said that the state can’t pass a law under the constitution requiring voters to show photo identification without also including in the law a mechanism for the state to provide those IDs to voters, holding Pennsylvania’s voter ID law doesn’t do that. See Voter ID Laws Struck Down

On January 17, 2014, Gina Passarella, of the Legal Intelligencer, reported that the state Supreme Court has granted allocator in Zauflik v. Pennsbury School District involving the constitutionality of the Political Subdivision Tort Claim Act that limits damages owed by governmental entities. The case centers around a $14 million verdict for injuries sustained when a school bus ran over a student, with the verdict being cut to $500,000 under the statutory damages cap. See Justices Take Up Governmental Damages Cap Case