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March 2022

James Boyle, Judge Blocks Pa. High Court’s Anti-Bias Rule for Attorneys, Law360 (March 25, 2022), James Boyle writes that an attempt to adopt an anti-bias rule by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s disciplinary board was blocked for the second time by Judge Chad Kenney of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Judge Kenney ruled that the revised wording of the rule violated the First Amendment and was too vague, overbroad, and constituted viewpoint-based discrimination. Judge Kenney further explained that the vagueness of the rule as to what is considered harassment or discrimination does not give an ordinary attorney sufficient fair notice as to whether they could be subject to disciplinary action.

Paula Reed Ward, Man Gets Life in 2017 Killing of Penn Hills Man; Judge Delays Sentencing of Accomplice, Tribune-Review (Mar. 9, 2022), Paula Reed Ward writes that counsel for Devante King, who was convicted of second-degree murder, has asked the trial judge to consider that a sentence of life without parole for her client should be considered cruel and unusual punishment under the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case next month on whether the sentence for second-degree murder is appropriate when a defendant was not personally responsible for a person’s death. 

February 2022

Mark Scolforo, Wolf Officials Argue to Keep Mail-In Balloting During Appeal, Associated Press (Feb. 24, 2022), Mark Scolforo writes that the Wolf administration has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to keep the state’s mail-in voting law in place while the justices consider the Commonwealth Court’s decision that struck down the no-excuse mail-in voting as violative of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Bruce Ledewitz, Why do Pennsylvania Courts Have a Say on Mail-in Voting? They Probably Shouldn’t, Pennsylvania Capital-Star (Feb. 10, 2022), Bruce Ledewitz argues that the Commonwealth Court’s decision to strike down no-excuse mail-in voting for the federal election in 2022 violates the Independent State Legislature Doctrine.

Nicholas Malfitano, Counsel for Athletes in City of Pittsburgh’s ‘Jock Tax’ Lawsuit Now Seek Summary Judgment in State Court, Pennsylvania Record (Feb. 7, 2022), Nicholas Malfitano writes that the athletes challenging the constitutionality of the “jock-tax” have filed for summary judgment. The plaintiffs assert that the facilities fee is a tax and that charging non-residents a higher tax than residents violates the Pennsylvania Constitution provision that all taxes must be “uniform.” Additionally, even if the fee is not considered a tax, plaintiffs assert that the fee fails to comply with “provisions of the federal constitution specifically the Privileges and Immunities, Due Process and Dormant Commerce Clauses.”

January 2022

Office of the Governor, Governor Wolf Signs Bills Supporting Health Care Workers and Students, Vetoes Unfair Congressional Map, State News Service (Jan. 26, 2022), The Office of the Governor released information following the governor’s veto of proposed congressional redistricting maps, House Bill 2146. Governor Wolf claims that HB 2146 fails fundamental fairness and fails to deliver on the Pennsylvania Constitution’s guarantee of free and equal elections. The governor asserts that the proposed map was the product of a partisan process and urges lawmakers to redraw the map consistent with the Redistricting Principles outlined by the Redistricting Advisory Council.

Victor Skinner, Republicans Take Different Tact to Privatize Pennsylvania Liquor Sales, Pennsylvania Independent (Jan. 21, 2022), Victor Skinner reports on House Bill 2272, a proposed constitutional amendment that would privatize Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor stores. HB 2272 is in response to Governor Wolf’s veto of a 2016 bill that would have privatized the spirits industry. The proposed amendment would add language to Article III that reads: “[t]he commonwealth shall not manufacture or sell, at wholesale or retail, liquor.”

Chris Ullery, Calls for Santacecilia’s Resignation Continue, Bucks County Courier Times (Jan. 20, 2022), Chris Ullery discusses the public pressure for Doylestown Supervisor, Nancy Santacecilia, to resign after she sent flyers through the Central Bucks School District’s interoffice mail in October. The flyers warned readers against voting for a slate of Democratic school board candidates and cast aspersions on the Rainbow Room, a nearly 20-year-old LGBTQ community youth center in the Doylestown area Municipal government boards cannot remove one of its members from office. Under Article VI of the Pennsylvania Constitution, civil officers can only be removed “on conviction of misbehavior in office or of any infamous crime,” but only then by the governor. Even after an order from the state’s highest executive, a public hearing ending in a two-thirds majority vote in the state Senate would be needed to unseat Santacecilia.