Commonwealth v. Koehler

This case presents plenty of intrigue for appellate law experts. A special panel of judges was convened pursuant to the Rules of Judicial Administration to deal with an appeal from a PCRA petitioner. During the PCRA petitioner’s appeal from the denial of his first PCRA petition, Justice Eakin joined in the majority to deny relief. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that penalty-phase counsel was not ineffective for failing to pursue mitigating evidence regarding the presence of domestic violence in the petitioner’s upbringing. Subsequent to that ruling, news articles brought to light certain emails of Justice Eakin that arguably showed his indifference to domestic violence. In the instant PCRA petition, the accused claimed that his due process rights were violated in that earlier appeal because Justice Eakin participated in the case. In the  instant matter, the PCRA court did all that it could to avoid reaching the issue, essentially claiming that a trial-level judge could not rule on an appellate jurists behavior. The Supreme Court in this case disagreed and found the issue presented, though novel, was not unlike any other claim of judicial bias. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

Concurring & Dissenting: