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 a PCRA petitioner’s appeal. During the PCRA petitioner’s appeal from the denial of his first PCRA petition, Justice Eakin joined the majority to deny relief. In that case, the Pennsylvania 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. After 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. 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 jurist’s behavior. The PA Supreme Court disagreed and found the issue presented, though novel, was not unlike any other claim of judicial bias. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

Majority: https://bit.ly/2VW18Jo
Concurring & Dissenting: https://bit.ly/3fftjul
Concurring: https://bit.ly/3aZ4nnp