Opinion Summaries for the

Welcome to Sullivan | Simon’s summaries of last week’s precedential appellate decisions from the Pennsylvania and New Jersey state courts, as well as the Third Circuit. Click on a case name, and you will be redirected to the court’s entire opinion.


Commonwealth v. Keister (Criminal Law, Child Abuse)

Appellant withheld food from her child as a form of punishment and made the child sleep on a three-by-four-foot area on the floor, often without a mattress, pajamas, or a blanket. The Pennsylvania Superior Court found that conduct sufficient to sustain a conviction for endangering the welfare of a child.

Commonwealth v. Horan (Criminal Law, PCRA)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the appellant was precluded from filing a PCRA petition while his motion to enforce his plea agreement was pending on appeal.

Commonwealth v. Perkins (Criminal Law, Contempt)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the evidence was insufficient to prove direct criminal contempt because the alleged contemptuous act occurred in the elevator bay outside the courtroom, and direct criminal contempt must occur “directly under the eye of the court.”

Commonwealth v. Hummel (DUI, ARD)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed its holding that ARD constitutes a prior offense for purposes of sentencing on a second or subsequent DUI conviction. The issue is, once again, before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.   

Commonwealth v. Becher (Criminal Law, New Trial Sua Sponte)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court applied the holding in Temple v. Providence Care Ctr., LLC and found that the trial court abused its discretion in granting defendant a new trial “in the interest of justice” because it was not “exceedingly clear” that the testimony at issue was inadmissible hearsay, prejudicing him.

Commonwealth v. Sinkiewicz (Criminal Law, Prima Facie Case)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the Commonwealth did not make out a prima facie case to hold defendant, a former police officer, over for trial on charges of aggravated assault and possessing an instrument of crime.

Torre-Gonzalez v. Pa. Parole Bd. (Administrative Law, Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled the Parole Board erred in dismissing requests for time credit. The Board claimed that petitioner was not entitled to relief based on the fugitive disentitlement doctrine. The Court noted that the petitioner’s requests were filed on time, and he only became a fugitive later.

Grim v. Maxatawny Twp. Bd. of Supervisors (Administrative Law, Zoning)

An en banc panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that the Township’s Board of Supervisors erroneously approved a development plan. The Court ruled that, amongst other errors, the Board misinterpreted a statute and should have required the developer to obtain a variance.


State v. Washington (Criminal Law, Plain View)

The New Jersey Appellate Division confronted a novel twist on an old issue: plain-view seizures. Here, the item in plain view was a car allegedly used during a shooting. The Court held that police lawfully seized the vehicle without a warrant because the car’s evidentiary value was immediately apparent. 

J.D. v. A.M.W. (Family Law, FRO)

The New Jersey Appellate Division reversed the Law Division’s ruling, which found plaintiff failed to prove the second element of the Silver v. Silver test in this FRO matter. The Court took issue with the lower court’s determination that plaintiff was safe because her new husband and defendant’s father could protect her.

In re Alleged Failure of Altice USA, Inc., to Comply with Certain Provisions of the N.J. Cable Television Act (Administrative Law, Preemption)

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that federal law does not preempt N.J.A.C. 14:18-3.8, a regulation requiring cable companies to refund or not charge customers who cancel cable service before the end of a billing cycle for cable service after the date of cancellation.

Santana v. Smiley Direct Club, LLC (Arbitration, Clickwrap)

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that SmileDirectClub’s arbitration provision embedded in the company’s terms and conditions was enforceable. The Court found that the hyperlink to the provision’s terms was reasonably conspicuous on the company’s webpage.

Angus v. Metuchen Bd. of Educ. (Employment Law, COVID-19)

The New Jersey Appellate Division held that N.J.S.A. 18A:30-1 permits the use of paid sick leave where, following medical advice, a Board of Education excludes a teacher from working at school due to their exposure to COVID-19 from a person outside their immediate household.

Del. River Joint Toll Bridge Comm’n v. George Harms Constr. Co., Inc. (Employment Law, Project Labor Agreement) 

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission did not have the power to create and authorize the use of a mandatory project labor agreement to construct a bridge over the Delaware River.


United States v. Nocito (Jurisdiction, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g))

The Third Circuit ruled that it did not have jurisdiction in this appeal. The denial of the defendant’s motion was not a final order because the motion did not satisfy either prong of the test enunciated in DiBella v. United States to determine the Rule 41(g) motion’s appealability.

Jacobs Project Mgmt. Co. v. Dep’t of the Interior (Administrative Law, Jurisdiction)

In this whistleblower action, the Third Circuit ruled that 41 U.S.C. § 4712 is not jurisdictional. That section mandates that the Department of the Interior must submit a report on certain allegations of employer mismanagement within 210 days. The Court sided with DOI, though its report was years late.

Scott v. Vantage Corp. (Civil Law, Sanctions)

The Third Circuit considered the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 11, which governs the striking of pleadings and the imposition of disciplinary sanctions to check abuses in the signing of pleadings. The Court found minor Rule 11 violations and ordered the District Court to impose sanctions.

United Refining Co. v. EPA (Administrative Law, Environmental Law)

The Third Circuit determined that the Environmental Protection Agency did not abuse its discretion in denying United Refining Co.’s request for a hardship exemption from EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard program.

Ahmed v. IRS (Tax Law)

The Third Circuit remanded this case to the Tax Court to determine whether the IRS’s Letter 1153, sent to notify Ahmed of proposed penalties, fell short of 26 U.S.C. § 6672(b)’s requirements.

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