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 opinion.


Commonwealth v. Ganjeh (Suppression, Miranda)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed defendant’s conviction of first-degree murder. The Court ruled that defendant was not subject to custodial interrogation when an officer asked, “What happened?” And the trial court did not abuse its discretion in holding that evidence of prior incidents of domestic abuse between defendant and victim as well as defendant’s pending criminal charges were relevant and admissible.

Commonwealth v. Gillins (PCRA, Plea Agreement)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated the lower court’s order dismissing defendant’s PCRA petition and remanded. The Superior Court ordered the lower court to vacate defendant’s sentence. The Court ruled that the false promise of concurrent state and federal sentences induced defendant to plead guilty to the state charges and that he subsequently served a 20-year state sentence without receiving any time credit toward his federal sentences.

In re Davis (Direct Criminal Contempt)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the direct criminal contempt conviction of the Clerk of Courts of Washington County. Defendant unsuccessfully argued that the trial court improperly expanded the definition to include her conduct outside a courtroom. 

Water Polo I, L.P. v. West Hanover Township Sewer Authority (Administrative Law, Municipal Law)

In these cross-appeals, Water Polo challenged the validity and constitutionality of the monthly sewer charges the Authority imposed. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court disagreed with all Water Polo’s claims. The Authority cross-appealed, and the Court agreed with the Authority’s argument that the trial court misapplied J. Buchanan Assocs., LLC v. Univ. Area Joint Auth., 231 A.3d 1089 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2020), in recalculating Water Polo’s tapping fees based on the projected 35,000-gallon-per-day capacity in the sewer module.


State v. Juracan-Juracan (Criminal Law, Foreign Language Interpretation)

Must a criminal defendant be provided in-person rather than video remote interpreting (VRI) services at his jury trial? The New Jersey Supreme Court held that in a criminal jury trial, there is a presumption that foreign language interpretation services will be provided in person. The Court established guidelines and factors to assist trial courts in deciding whether VRI should be used during criminal jury trials.

Crisitello v. St. Theresa School (Employment Discrimination, Religious Tenets Exception to the NJ LAD)

The New Jersey Supreme Court considered whether defendant, the Church of St. Theresa, was entitled to summary judgment in Ms. Cristello’s suit alleging employment discrimination contrary to the Law Against Discrimination. Ms. Cristello was fired from her position as an art teacher and toddler room caregiver because she became pregnant while unmarried in violation of the terms of her employment agreement. That agreement required employees to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Court held that the “religious tenets” exception of the LAD is an affirmative defense available to a religious entity when confronted with a claim of employment discrimination. Here, it was uncontroverted that St. Theresa’s followed the religious tenets of the Catholic Church in terminating plaintiff. Therefore, St. Theresa’s was entitled to summary judgment.

Satz v. Satz (Matrimonial Disputes, Matrimonial settlement agreements)

In this post-judgment matrimonial matter, defendant appealed from various Family Part orders enforcing provisions of the marital settlement agreement and awarding counsel fees to plaintiff. The New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed.


United States v. Henderson (Sentencing, Crime of Violence Enhancement)

The Third Circuit applied a “modified categorical approach” and ruled that the district court correctly applied a sentencing enhancement under United States Sentencing Guideline § 2K2.1(a)(4) based on defendant’s Pennsylvania robbery conviction because 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701(a)(1)(ii) qualified as a “crime of violence.”

National Shooting Sports Foundation v. NJ Att’y Gen. (Standing)

The Third Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction that enjoined the NJ Attorney General from enforcing the “bad actors in the gun industry” law, N.J. Stat. §2C:58-33(a). The Third Circuit ruled that plaintiff did not have standing because it could not show that it or its members (1) intend to take action that is (2) “arguably affected with a constitutional interest” but is (3) arguably forbidden by the Law, and (4) the threat of enforcement against them is substantial.

Tyger v. Precision Drilling Corp. (Employment Law, Fair Labor Standards Act)

Oil rig workers claimed they should be paid for changing into and out of their protective gear. The Third Circuit established guideposts for district courts to determine “what makes an activity integral and indispensable to productive work, rather than preliminary or postliminary”: (1) Location, (2) Regulations, (3) Type of Gear. The Court summed up the test by opining, “The test is whether changing is integral and indispensable to our productive work. We can find out whether the gear is integral by looking at where we change, whether regulations or industry custom require changing into gear at work, and how specialized the gear is.”

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