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Summaries of Caselaw - 2010

Methodological Provisions:

Freed v. Geisinger Medical Center, 5 A.3d 212 (Pa. 2010): per Todd, J., the Court held that it has authority to sua sponte reconsider and overrule its prior decision in Flanagan v. Labe, 547 Pa. 254, 690 A.2d 183 (1997) wherein it was held that nurses could not give expert testimony on medical causation. Geisinger had filed a petition for reargument asserting that the sua sponte overruling of prior precedent "denied it its due process rights of notice and an opportunity to be heard." Freed had not preserved the issue, but the trial court cited Flanagan in the 1925(a) opinion prepared for appellate review. Castille, C.J., wrote a concurring opinion in which he responded to the dissenting opinion of Justice Saylor. Justices Saylor and Eakin each wrote dissenting opinions in which they disagreed with the Majority that Flanagan is the kind of precedent that should be overruled. Castille noted that reasonable minds can differ on when an issue is properly reached on appeal. With regard to overruling the holding in Flanagan, Castille thought that the complete bar on nurse's testimony was unnecessary to the decision and erroneous.

Kurta v. Borough of Glassport, 2010 WL 1664907 (W.D.Pa. 4/23/2010): per Ambrose, J., the court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim for damages for a violation of Article I, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and dismissed the claim without prejudice on the ground that the existence of such a damage claim is a "'novel or complex issue of State law'".  Accord, Abraham v. Digugliemo, 2010 W.L. 5060788 (E.D.Pa. 2010).

Commonwealth v. Young, 2010 W.L. 22806 (Pa.Super. 1/6/2010): per Ford-Elliott, J., the panel reaffirmed, in the double jeopardy context, that in the absence of proffered justification for a different result, parallel "state and federal provisions are treated as coextensive."  Under the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence, the Commonwealth may admit evidence of a previous crime as a prior bad act even where the defendant was acquitted in the prior trial; the evidence of prior crimes challenged in this case were confessions by the defendant. (Colville, J., dissented but did not discuss this constitutional question).

Article I: Declaration of Rights

    Section 8: Search and Seizure

Commonwealth v. Wilson, 11 A.3d 519 (Pa.Super. 12/15/2010): the court en banc, per Panella., J., held that Article. I, Section 8 does not provide greater protections than the Fourth Amendment in the context of probation conditions concerning searches. (Ford Elliot, P.J. concurred in result).

Commonwealth v. Benson, 10 A.3d 1268 (Pa.Super. 12/16/2010): the unanimous panel, per Freedberg, J., affirmed a denial of a motion to suppress phone records because a person "has no legitimate expectation of privacy under either the United States Constitution or the Pennsylvania Constitution in the cellular telephone records for a telephone used by him but owned by a third party."

Commonwealth v. Taggart, 997 A.2d 1189 (Pa.Super. 6/17/2010): the panel, per Donohue, J., held that unprovoked flight by itself is insufficient to satisfy reasonable suspicion and therefore evidence seized as a result of a search premised on flight alone must be suppressed; in the case at issue, however, a second flight plus supporting evidence provided reasonable suspicion.

    Section 21: Right to Bear Arms

Mcdonald v. Chicago, 130 S.Ct. 3020 (2010): the Court, per Alito, J. held that the federal Second Amendment "right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense" is fully applicable to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Article II. The Legislature

    Section 1: Delegation

Pennsylvania Builders Association v. Department of Labor and Industry, 4 A.3d 215 (Pa.Cmwlth. 6/23/2010): the court, per Butler, J., held that the adoption by the Department of the 2009 Code of the International Code Council to amend Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code did not violate the delegation doctrine, nor did it constitute an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power.

    Section 7: Ineligibility of Criminal Convictions

Commonwealth ex re. Rebert v. Rambler, 991 A2d 909 (Pa.Super. 3/17/2010): the court, per Cleland, J., held that the federal felony of making threatening communications is not an "infamous crime" within meaning of state constitutional provision prohibiting individuals who have been convicted of infamous crimes from holding public office; even though the federal conviction was graded a felony, the same conduct would have been prosecuted as a misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law.

Article III. Legislation

    Section 3: Form of Bills; Single Subject

Commonwealth v. Neiman, 5 A.3d 353 (Pa.Super. 9/8/2010): the court en banc held that a bill containing Megan’s Law and Deficiency Judgment Act amendments violated the single subject rule of Article III, Section 3, but that the proper relief is to preserve Megan’s Law by striking provisions of bill not germane to regulation of sexual predators.

    Section 32: Certain Local and Special Laws

West Mifflin Area School Dist. v. Zahorchak, 4 A.3d 1042 (Pa. 4/13/2010): the Court, per Saylor, J., unanimously held legislation granting authority to the Secretary of Education to deal with the Duquesne City School District as unconstitutional special legislation.

Article V. The Judiciary

    Section 18: Judicial Discipline

In re Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, 988 A.2d 1269 (Pa. 1/29/2010): the Court, per Castille, C.J., ordered the Judicial Conduct Board ("JCB") to disclose a misconduct complaint to the Commission under seal, but denied other requests for disclosure from the JCB by the Commission. (Todd, J. & Orie Melvin, J.J. concurred and dissented separately).

    Section 1: Uniformity

Smith v. Carbon County Board of Assessment Appeals, 10 A.3d 393 (Pa.Cmwlth. 12/7/2010): the panel, per Leadbetter, P.J., held that absent a request for county-wide reassessment, or willful discrimination, a taxpayer in a uniformity challenge is entitled to assessment conformity only with the common level in the taxing district rather than with the level of a smaller sample of comparable properties in the district.

DelGaizo v. Commonwealth, 8 A.3d 429 (Pa.Cmwlth. 11/18/2010): per Brobson, J., the court upheld a section of the tax code that prohibits carryover loses by shareholders of S-corporations against uniformity and federal equal protection challenges based on different tax treatment of shareholders of C-corporations.

Boguslavsky v. North Pocono School Dist., 11 A.3d 582 (Pa.Cmwlth. 12/16/2010): the unanimous panel, per Friedman, S.J., upheld the District's earned income tax against a uniformity challenge.