Jeremy Long, Mayor Wally Scott Fined a Second Time by Reading’s Charter Board, Reading Eagle (Dec. 14, 2019). Jeremy Long writes that Reading’s mayor has been fined and given a public censure for failing to execute his mayoral duties by hiring a qualified managing director. Mayor Scott then filed a lawsuit against the Charter Board, alleging its enforcement powers violated the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Board publicly censured Scott and fined him $2,000.
Councilwoman Sues City to Nix Campaign Rules, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Dec. 12, 2019). Pittsburgh Councilwoman Darlene Harris sued the city of Pittsburgh, alleging that the city’s campaign finance rules violated the Preemption Doctrine of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Harris argued that the rules impose additional campaign finance filing requirements and limit campaign contributions when there are already state regulations in place. Councilwoman Harris refused to file her campaign documents with the Ethics Hearing Board using this argument, and the Board has petitioned for Harris to pay a $4,150 fine plus interest.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Gregory’s Bill for Hidden Predator Act Passes Senate, Targeted News Service (Dec. 5, 2019). The Hidden Predator Act, which provides a two-year window to submit child sexual abuse claims in civil court if the statute of limitations has already expired for that victim, has passed the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Next, the bill must be approved in the next legislative session and go before the voters as a referendum question.
Inga Saffron, Council Is Trying to Mdoernize Philly’s Tax Abatement, Here Are Five Better Ways,Philadelphia Inquirer (Dec. 5, 2019). Inga Saffron writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer that Philadelphia’s tax abatement provision likely violates the Uniformity Clause under the Pennsylvania Constitution. Since it is likely unrealistic to eliminate the abatement altogether, Saffron discusses several solutions to the uniformity issue, such as limiting the abatement to overlook neighborhoods, capping the abatement at $700,000, and using the abatement to subsidize affordable housing.
Chris Palmer, It Should Be Unconstitutional When Police Officers Kill Fleeing Felony Suspects, Philly DA’s Office Says, Philadelphia Inquirer (Dec. 5, 2019). Chris Palmer writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer that Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s office has stated that current state law allowing police to use deadly force if a fleeing suspect has committed a felony is unconstitutional. The DA’s office states this law violates both the Pennsylvania and federal Constitutions. The DA has brought criminal charges against a police officer in a similar situation regardless of this law and has sought judicial intervention in changing the law before a trial on those charges.
Sex Offender Registry Law in Pa. Facing Life-or-Death Test at Supreme Court, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Dec. 5, 2019). Five separate cases before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are challenging the constitutionality of Megan’s Law, which requires a public registry of sex offenders and community notification about their whereabouts. The cases challenge Megan’s Law as “outdated, discriminatory and unnecessarily cruel, depriving thousands of people of their fundamental rights.” The cases also challenge the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA, which has arisen out of Megan’s Law.
Highlights of Pennsylvania’s Church Scandal Legislation, AP Alerts (Nov. 21, 2019). The Associated Press reported that the Pennsylvania Senate passed a package of legislation relaxing criminal and civil statutes of limitations on sexual abuse crimes. Subjects of these bills include: eliminating the statute of limitations on the criminal prosecution of major child sexual abuse crimes; and allowing child sexual abuse victims more time to file civil lawsuits.
Gov. Wolf Vetoes House Bill 321, US Federal News (Nov. 21, 2019). Pursuant to Article IV, Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 321, which would have prohibited the abortion of a child solely based on the child’s diagnosis of possible Down Syndrome. Governor Wolf argued the bill limits women’s healthcare and the ability for a woman and her physician to make choices regarding best medical procedures and standards of care.
Edward Koch, Russel Lieberman, & Andrew Susko, White and Williams Files Amicus Brief in Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Time-Limit Ruling, JD Supra (Nov. 19, 2019). Edward Koch, Russell Lieberman, and Andrew Susko report for JD Supra blog that White and Williams, LLP filed an Amicus Brief on November 14thurging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling in Yanakos, which declared the state’s seven-year-deadline for medical malpractice lawsuits unconstitutional. White and Williams, LLP argued that the court, in violation of its well-established principles, substituted its judgment for the legislature’s judgment.
Nicholas Malfitano, Pittsburgh’s Gun Law, Passed After Synagogue Shooting, Struck Down By Judge, Pennsylvania Record (Nov. 19, 2019). Nicholas Malfitano for the Pennsylvania Record writes that a state court judge has struck down local legislation aiming to strengthen gun laws in Pittsburgh. The judge held that the state legislature has preempted any local attempt to regulate firearms under field preemption with its Uniform Firearms Act.
Bob Bauder, Pro Athletes, Players’ Union Seek to Halt Pittsburgh ‘Jock Tax,’Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Nov. 7, 2019). Bob Bauder discusses Pittsburgh sports’ “jock tax,” where athletes claim the city unfairly levies a 3% earned income tax on visiting pro athletes who live outside the city limits while taxing all residents 1% income tax. Two professional hockey players, a former baseball player, and players unions are seeking to enjoin the tax.
Ron Southwick, Pa. Voters Overwhelmingly Support Ballot Question for Crime Victims, Patriot-News (Nov. 6, 2019). Ron Southwick states that the crime victim’s amendment, Marsy’s Law, passed with flying colors by a count of roughly three to one on Election Day. However, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s injunction will prevent the amendment from taking effect at this time.
Dorothy Blair, NVEC Challenges Ferguson Township to Preserve Nature in its Pine Hall TTD, CentreDaily (Oct. 18, 2019). Dorothy Blair argues that Ferguson Township’s zoning changes, which will create new housing, violate the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution because the zoning changes may alter or disrupt the Pine Hall forest.
Andrew Wagaman & Emily Opilo, Allentown Can’t Bill Nonprofit Good Shepherd for Business Privilege Tax, Judge Rules, Dealing Likely $2.3 Million Blow to City Budget, Morning Call (Oct. 16, 2019). Andrew Wagaman and Emily Opilo discuss a Lehigh County Court ruling stating that Allentown cannot levy its business privilege tax against the nonprofit Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network for 2012 through 2016 because it was not engaged in business activities as defined by City law. This ruling, the authors state, could deprive the city of millions in retroactive tax revenue. The order constituted an injunction on the merits.
Robert Moran, ACLU Files Suit to Stop Victim’s Rights Ballot Measure, Philadelphia Inquirer (Oct. 11, 2019). The ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking to block the upcoming Marsy’s Law ballot question because the specifics of the amendment were vague and the provisions must be considered separately instead of in one question. However, the article pointed to criticisms of the ACLU action because the ACLU waited until ballots had gone out to disagree with the text of the ballot question.
Morgan Lewis, Pennsylvania Administratively Sets Bright-Line Economic Nexus Threshold for Corporate Net Income Tax, JD Supra (Oct. 4, 2019). Morgan Lewis writes that the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue announced that it will impose a bright-line economic nexus standard for corporate net income tax during the next tax period. The article suggests that this procedure may be invalid under the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution because there is significant judicial precedent against enforcing tax laws unequally.
Collection of Race Data Crucial to PSP, Republican Herald (Oct. 2, 2019). The Republican Herald argues in this editorial that Pennsylvania should be continuing to collect Pennsylvania State Police data regarding the race of drivers stopped on the highways. This will ensure that there is no discrimination regarding the race of drivers stopped by troopers.
Is Marsy’s Law Necessary?, Tribune-Review (Oct. 11, 2019). In this editorial, the Tribune-Review explains that Marsy’s law, the crime victims’ rights amendment, would provide a mechanism for victims to file motions with courts to ensure their rights are enforced. However, the legislation may not have as much positive impact as hoped. Professor Bruce Ledewitz of Duquesne University suggests that money should be provided for victims services instead of creating an amendment concerning issues that state courts have already been enforcing.
Deb Erdley, Pa. Voters Will Decide Constitutional Amendment on Rights of Crime Victims, Tribune-Review (Oct. 1, 2019). Deb Erdley for the Tribune-Review reports that the crime victims’ rights amendment, dubbed Marsy’s Law, is similar to Pennsylvania’s Crime Victims Act. Marsy’s Law will provide a mechanism for enforcement of victims’ rights in the courtroom. However, Professor Bruce Ledewitz of Duquesne University states that these mechanisms have already been enforced in state courts prior to Marsy’s Law and says he would rather see the legislature fund victim services instead of passing the amendment. Elizabeth Randol of the Pennsylvania ACLU suggests that amending the statutory language of the Crime Victims Act would produce more of a change than Marsy’s Law. However, Jennifer Storm, a Pennsylvania Victim Advocate, has pushed for this amendment since she came to office in 2013.
Charlie Gerow, Any Serious Discussion of Gun Control Must Begin with the Second Amendment, The Patriot News (Sept. 22, 2019). Charlie Gerow argues that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution serve an important function in protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans. Gerow claims that the deliberations of the Pennsylvania constitutional convention made clear that the drafters wanted to be more explicit in protecting citizens’ right to bear arms than is the federal constitution. Gerow states that inflammatory comments by public officials only serve to stunt the important debate around gun ownership in America.
Pa. State Sen. Farnese: Last Call – Deadline to Submit Statute of Limitations Reform Testimony is Sep. 20th, Targeted News Service (Sept. 18, 2019). House Bill 963 proposes an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would create a two-year window for child victims in sexual abuse crimes to press charges against their accusers.
Pennsylvania State Democrats: Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislators Applaud Advancement of Methane Rules in Face of Federal Rollbacks, Targeted News Service (Sept. 17, 2019). Governor Wolf is proceeding with an Environmental Protection rule that will cut methane pollution in the oil and gas industry. This new rule is justified as an aid in compliance with the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Bryan Cutler, Cutler: Gun Ordinances Remain Illegal in PA, State News Service (May 8, 2019). Bryan Cutler reports for the State News Service that under the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and under applicable State Law regarding firearms, municipalities are unable to pass and enforce their own gun laws and ordinances.
Colin McNickle, Keeping An Eye on Police Regionalization, Tribune-Review (Aug. 31, 2019). Colin McNickle states that Cheswick Borough and Springdale Township have jointly formed Allegheny County’s second regional police force and that Article IX, Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution allows for such combined police forces.
Julie Shaw, Pa. High Court Hears Arguments in Philly Over Constitutionality of Death Penalty, Philadelphia Inquirer (Sept. 11, 2019). Julie Shaw for The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard oral argument in Jermont Cox v. Commonwealth. In this case, Timothy Kane, an assistant federal defender for the Federal Community Defender office, which represents death row inmates Jermont Cox and Kevin Marinelli, argued that the death penalty has been applied in an arbitrary manner, thus violating the State Constitution’s ban on cruel punishments. The Commonwealth, represented by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, also argued that the death penalty has been applied arbitrarily.
Natalie Kostelni, City’s $119 Million Property Reassessment Suffers Huge Blow, Philadelphia Business Journal (July 18, 2019). Natalie Kostelni discusses the unconstitutional assessment of commercial properties in Philadelphia. The city selectively assessed commercial properties such as office, industrial, and multifamily buildings, violating the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution. As such, the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court ordered the city to pay property owners refunds.
Julie Shaw, DA Krasner Wants Pa. Supreme Court to Strike Down State’s Death Penalty and Declare It Unconstitutional, Philadelphia Inquirer (July 16, 2019). Julie Shaw discusses Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s request that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declare the death penalty unconstitutional, alleging that the death penalty is “racially biased, arbitrary, and discriminates against the poor.” The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s reply suggested that the issue should be resolved in the legislature, not the courts. A reply brief from the District Attorney is expected this month.
Brian C. Rittmeyer, Tarentum Billboard Restrictions Draw Challenge, Tribune Review (July 10, 2019). According to Brian Rittmeyer, a company declared Tarentum’s state zoning ordinance unconstitutional because it did not allow billboards near the borough. The Zoning Hearing Board rejected the company’s appeal to erect a billboard near the borough, and the company now wants the City to change the ordinance. Duquesne University Law Professor Joe Sabino Mistick stated that Pennsylvania requires that all communities provide a reasonable opportunity for every legitimate land use. Litigation is pending on this matter.
Howard Friedman,Confrontation Clause Satisfied Even Though Muslim Witness Had Face Partly Covered, Religion Clause (July 4, 2019). Howard Friedman discusses in his blog Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Smarr, a recent Pennsylvania appellate court ruling. In this case, the trial court allowed a Muslim murder witness to testify with a scarf covering her mouth and nose. Because the clothing did not obstruct the witness’s eyes, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court that the federal Constitution’s Confrontation Clause was not violated.
1stStep to Stopping Delinquent Officials House OKs Constitutional Amendment to Create a Way to Remove No-Show Elected Officers, Morning Call (July 1, 2019). A bill of amendment has passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that would give local officials a way to remove elected officers for dereliction of duty. This includes being chronically absent from municipal meetings. Lucy Perkins, SCOTUS Gerrymandering Decision Doesn’t Affect PA.’s New Congressional Map, Philadelphia Business Journal (June 28, 2019). Lucy Perkins discusses a recent case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that federal courts have no authority to determine whether partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. However, this ruling will not affect Pennsylvania, as the state has already passed its own rulings on the unconstitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.
Senate Passes Victims’ Bill of Rights Known as Marsy’s Law, State News Service (June 19, 2019). The Pennsylvania Senate passed the proposed amendment to seek voters’ approval on a constitutional amendment providing crime victims with a bill of rights. The Amendment is commonly known as Marsy’s Law. The bill will now be included as a referendum question on the ballot in the November election.
Natasha Lindstrom, Gov. Tom Wolf Signs Law That Protects Regional DUI Checkpoints, Trib Live (July 2, 2019). Natasha Lindstrom discusses new legislation that allows small Pennsylvania police departments to collaborate with larger agencies to run DUI checkpoints. Specifically, the law allows municipal police departments to enter into joint agreements or to form task forces to combat DUIs. The bill is, in part, intended to reverse the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling in Commonwealth v. Hlubin, which halted joint DUI efforts from police departments.
Charles Thompson, Attorney for Former Penn State Lawyer Vows Fight Against Call for Public Censure in Sandusky Case Work, Penn Live (Mar. 14, 2019), https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/03/cynthia-baldwins-attorney-blasts-recommendation-of-public-censure-of-former-pa-supreme-court-justice.html. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted the case against Cynthia Baldwin, former general counsel of Penn State and former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, for review. The claims against Baldwin include failing to mention a conflict of interest and violating attorney-client privilege. Specifically, the Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Counsel alleges that Baldwin failed to adequately represent the vice president of the football program, Gary Schultz, and athletic director Tim Curly. Previously, a disciplinary sub-committee had recommended no action in the case; the full disciplinary committee then reversed that decision. The Court will now review the case to determine whether Baldwin will be sanctioned.
Senate Panel Approves Legislation Setting Commonsense Spending Limits on State Government, State News Service (June 5, 2019). Senate Bill 116, known as the Taxpayer Protection Act, establishes spending limits to prevent lawmakers from breaching or repealing law with a simple majority vote. The bill has moved to the Senate for full consideration.
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Challenging Pennsylvania Absentee Voting Deadline, Targeted News Service (June 5, 2019). The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania heard an oral argument on a constitutional challenge to the absentee voting deadline after nine voters submitted an absentee ballot application by the deadline, but received their ballots too close to, or after, the deadline for submitting them. This matter is currently in litigation.
Regulatory Update: Minnesota Public Utilities Commission; AQUA PENNSYLVANIA WASTEWATER INC, has issued (A-2019-3008491) Prehearing Memorandum, US Official News (June 4, 2019). Swift & Choi Development, LLC, proposed motions to intervene and extend time limitations regarding an eight-acre parcel of land restricted for use by the Cheltenham Township. The township changed the applicable zoning law to reduce the number of residential units which could be constructed on the parcel and reduced the height of all units to a maximum of three stories. This matter is currently in litigation.
Laura McCrystal, Hundreds of Commercial Property Owners are Challenging Philly’s Assessments, With $63 Million at Stake, Philly.com (May 31, 2019). Laura McCrystal discusses a case where property owners sued the city of Philadelphia over its decision to reassess commercial and industrial properties, but not residential properties. The property owners argue that this violates the Pennsylvania Constitution’s requirement to assess all properties equally and concurrently. This matter is currently in litigation.
Memorandum: Disabled Veterans Real Estate Tax Exemption Legislation, US Official News (May 25, 2019). New proposed legislation would amend Article VII, Section 2(c) of the Pennsylvania Constitution to exclude the requirement that veterans be 100% disabled due to wartime service in order to receive a veterans’ tax exemption. The new bill also provides that surviving spouses of veterans will be exempt from payment of all real estate property taxes at their place of primary residence.
Spilman Thomas and Battle, PLLC, Currents – Energy Industry Insights – May 2019 #3, JD Supra (May 18, 2019). The blog, JD Supra, reports that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a decision in Frederick et al v. Allegheny Township Zoning Hearing Boardthat would allow drilling in all districts under a local zoning ordinance, so long as the ordinancemeet certain standards. The ordinance was originally challenged on the basis of the Environmental Rights Amendment and the public’s right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of natural resources.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network Files a Petition for Review to Require DEP to Establish a Maximum Contaminant Level for PFOA, Targeted News Service (May 16, 2019). Targeted News Service reports that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network demanded that Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection set a maximum contaminant level for Perfluorooctonic Acid, a toxic compound banned from manufacturing in the United States. According to the Riverkeeper Network, the presence of this compound in water implicates the Environmental Rights Amendment under the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Walsh Introduces Bill to Hold Municipal Elected Officials Accountable, State News Service (May 10, 2019). Rep. Justin Walsh (R-Westmoreland) introduced House Bill 1444, which would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow municipal elected officials to be removed from office for a lack of attendance at public meetings.
Bryan Cutler, Cutler: Gun Ordinances Remain Illegal in PA, State News Service (May 8, 2019). Bryan Cutler reports for the State News Service that under the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and under applicable State Law regarding firearms, municipalities are unable to pass and enforce their own gun laws and ordinances.
Senate Panel Approves Martin’s Election Cost-Savings Measure, State News Service (May 7, 2019). The State News Service notes that Bill 413, which was proposed by the Senate State Government Committee, amends the Pennsylvania Constitution to eliminate the requirement for a separate ballot or column for the retention of judges, justices, and justices of the peace. This improvement will decrease costs and confusion for voters.
David B. Kyle, Oppose HB 800, The Daily Item (May 5, 2019). David B. Kyle for The Daily Item reports that the Pennsylvania Constitution expressly prohibits money raised for public schools from supporting private schools. As such, Governor Tom Ridge is unable to pass legislation to grant vouchers to parents so that they may send their children to private schools. Kyle complains that the Education Improvement Tax Credit and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit circumvent the Constitution by subsidizing attendance at private schools.
Making It Easier to Vote, The Philadelphia Inquirer (May 5, 2019). In an editorial, The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that Philadelphia’s polling stations are inadequate because they do not produce a paper receipt that would allow for potential recounts. The author suggests the time is ripe for reforming these procedures to increase voter turnout and confidence by amending the Pennsylvania Constitution through a bill.
Brian Brueggemann, Columbia Residents Challenge Borough’s Authority to Lend Public Funds to Private Developers, Pennsylvania Record (May 3, 2019). Brian Bruggemann for Pennsylvania Record reports that Columbia borough residents are challenging an ordinance under the Pennsylvania Constitution that would create a commercial revolving loan program by lending public funds to private developers through investing in mortgages, and requires $800,000 in contributions. The Pennsylvania Constitution states that no municipality is authorized to obtain or appropriate money for, or to loan its credit to, any corporation, association, institution or individual.
Ardith Talbott, Guest Opinion: Who will Draw the Lines?, The Intelligencer (April 25, 2019). Ardith Talbott for the Intelligencer reports that two bills were introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that will ensure that an independent citizens redistricting commission, not the legislators, will draw the district lines. Talbott urges readers to ask their state representatives to cosponsor the bill.
Kent Jackson, State Commission Hears Experiences of HASD Students, Standard-Speaker (April 23, 2019). Kent Jackson reports for the Standard-Speaker reports that the Education Law Center has filed a lawsuit to declare the state’s education funding a violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Jackson notes that of the nation’s 55 most disadvantaged school districts, four are in Pa.
Warner Renews Call to Protect Taxpayers from Higher Spending, States News Service (April 23, 2019). The Pennsylvania House of Representatives reported that Representative Ryan Warner (R-Fayette/Westmoreland) has reintroduced his Taxpayer Protection Act to help keep state spending in check. The House Bill proposes an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would establish state budgetary spending limits. Carter Walker, District Attorney: Commissioners can’t Block Funding for Commonwealth Court Case, Lancaster Newspapers (April 9, 2019). Carter Walker for Lancaster Newspapers reports that Lancaster County Commissioners told the county controller they will decline to use taxpayer funds for any payment of invoices related to the litigation against District Attorney Craig
Suit Filed Over Gun Control Inspired by Synagogue Shooting, Associated Press (April 10, 2019). The Associated Press reports that a coalition of gun rights groups filed suit to have the newly minted laws declared unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania Constitution. The law was enacted in response to the recent synagogue shooting.
Memorandum: Uniformity Clause Repeal, US Official News (April 9, 2019). Representative Elizabeth Fielder, Democrat Philadelphia County, reports that she introduced legislation to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to repeal the uniformity clause.
Christina Tatu & Riley Yates, Washington Twp. Official a No-Show Since June Northampton County DA Considering Rarely Used Action to Remove Stacy Diehl From Office, Morning Call (April 7, 2019). Christina Tatu & Riley Yates report for the Morning Call that Supervisor Stacy Diehl has been absent from township meetings since June. Township solicitor, David Ceraul, asked Northampton County District Attorney, John Morganelli, to consider a lawsuit, under quo warranto petition, to force Diehl out of office. The article states that in Pennsylvania, such suits are the only way to challenge a public official’s right to hold office.
Gregory Announces House Passage of PA Hidden Predator Act, States News Service (April 10, 2019). The State News Service reports that Gregory’s House Bill 963 passed the House of Representatives. This bill requires an amendment to Article 1, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because it creates a two-year window to submit claims of childhood sexual abuse in civil court if the statute of limitations has already expired for that victim.
Chris Brennan, Ex-Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary Booted from City Council Ballot; Former LG Mike Stack Withdraws, The Inquirer (March 26, 2019). Chris Brennan for The Inquirer reports that former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary cannot run for a City Council seat due to his felony conviction for lying to FBI agents.
Liz Evans Scolforo, York Judge: Drug Task Force was ‘Overzealous’ in Seizing Property, The York Dispatch (March 23, 2019). Liz Evans Scolforo for The York Dispatch reports that the Drug Task Force violated the Federal and Pennsylvania Constitutions by seizing property of alleged drug dealers without enough evidence to tie the property taken to the crime. The judge found the civil-forfeiture statute, allows law enforcement to tie property to a crime by a preponderance of the evidence, was unconstitutional as applied in this case.
Jeremy Long, Reading School District and I-LEAD Continue to Battle over the School’s Charter, Reading Eagle (March 19, 2019). Jeremy Long for the Reading Eagle reports that a three-judge panel for the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania vacated the Pennsylvania Charter School Appeal Board holding that I-LEAD could keep its charter. The court sent the case back to the charter appeal board to consider its decision.
Max Mitchell, Pa. Attorney Disciplinary Counsel Asks Public Censure for Frank Fina Over Alleged Improper Questioning of Ex-Penn State GC, The Legal Intelligencer (March 25, 2019). Max Mitchell for The Legal Intelligencer reports that in response to the alleged improper questioning of Penn State’s former general counsel during the investigation of serial child molester Jerry Sandusky, the Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Counsel has asked the state Disciplinary Board to recommend a public censure for Frank Fina, former Deputy Attorney General. The argument made before the three-member panel of the Disciplinary Board stated that Fina broke a disciplinary rule which prohibits attorneys from subpoenaing other lawyers to testify about their clients without first obtaining judicial approval. See also Max Mitchell, Disciplinary Committee Recommends No Charges Against Jerry Sandusky Prosecutor Frank Fina, The Legal Intelligencer (Jan. 2, 2019) (below).
Matt Fair,Pa. Justices Sign Off on Disbarring Former State AG Kane, Law 360 (March 22, 2019). Matt Fair for Law 360 wrote that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to accept the voluntary resignation of Kathleen Kane’s law license, after Kane’s conviction nearly four months ago for leaking confidential investigative material to a reporter and lying about it to a grand jury. The former Pennsylvania attorney general’s license was temporarily suspended in September 2015 when she was first charged.
P.J. D’Annunzio, Pa. Attorney Suspended One Year for Unlicensed Practice in Texas, Georgia, The Legal Intelligencer (Feb. 26, 2019). P.J. D’Annunzio for the Legal Intelligencer reports that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered the one-year suspension of a Pennsylvania lawyer who practiced law in Texas and Georgia without a license.
Charles Thompson, Pa. Supreme Court won’t hear ex-Penn State presidents Appeal in Jerry Sandusky Case, Penn Live (Feb. 21, 2019). Charles Thompson reports for Penn Live that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to grant an appeal for Graham Spainer, former president of Penn State, of his 2017 child endangerment conviction. At this time, Spanier remains a tenured faculty member at Penn State University.
David Wenner, Groups to go to court over Pa.’s ban on paying for abortions for women with lower incomes,The Patriot-News (Jan. 17, 2019). David Wenner for the Patriot-News reports that abortion providers and advocates filed a lawsuit this week seeking to overturn the law that bans Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program from paying for abortion. The group argues that since Medicaid pays for comprehensive health care coverage for men, denying women an aspect of medical care such as abortion violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Jeremy Long, I-LEAD Files Lawsuit Against Reading School District, Reading Eagle (Feb. 28, 2019). Jeremy Long for the Reading Eagle reports that I-LEAD, Inc., a charter school, filed a lawsuit against the Reading School District alleging the district and board of assessment engaged in a discriminatory tax scheme, by treating this charter school differently from the other charter schools, and failing to recognize the tax exempt status of this school. I-LEAD alleges this violated the state constitution’s uniformity provision, as well as the federal constitutions. See also follow-up story above.
Andy Hoover, Pa. Can’t Be a Model for Reform if we Undermine People’s Rights, York Daily Record(Feb. 26, 2019). Andy Hoover, communications director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, argues in the York Daily Record about Marsy’s Law, the pending constitutional amendment. Hoover notes that Marsy’s Law is flawed and dangerous because it undercuts defendants’ rights.
Charles Thompson, State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown Resigns her Seat, Averting a House Floor Showdown, Penn Live (Dec. 11, 2018). Charles Thompson for Penn Live reports that State Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown submitted her formal resignation. Brown was sentenced for bribery and other crimes and originally refused to resign, despite the Pennsylvania Constitution’s prohibition of convicted public officials serving in the legislature.
Max Mitchell, Disciplinary Committee Recommends No Charges Against Jerry Sandusky Prosecutor Frank Fina, The Legal Intelligencer (Jan. 2, 2019). Max Mitchell for The Legal Intelligencer writes that disciplinary charges against Frank Fina stem from his handling of the investigation into three former Penn State administrators. The disciplinary committee recommends these charges to be dismissed, but Mitchell writes, that the final determination will be left to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
P.J. D’Annunzio, Secrecy in Phila. Family Court Protects Bureacrats and Lawyers More Than Children, Experts Say, The Legal Intelligencer (Jan. 16, 2019). P.J. D’Annunzio for The Legal Intelligencer reports that closed-door proceedings in the Philadelphia Family Court shield lawyers, social workers, and judges who do their jobs poorly. The court’s practice of excluding members of the press and public from hearings is a practice rather than a requirement.
Riley Yates, John Morganelli to Run for Northampton County Judge, The Morning Call (Jan. 2, 2019). Riley Yates for The Morning Call reports that Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli will run for Northampton county court of common pleas judge as a republican.