Below are our 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. Haahs (Criminal Law, Sufficiency)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court applied Commonwealth v. Gamby and affirmed defendant’s conviction for indecent assault. Defendant unsuccessfully argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he had “indecent contact” with the complainant because the lips and mouth are not “sexual or other intimate parts” of the body.
Commonwealth v. Stevenson (Criminal Law, Waiver)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that defendant waived his argument that his prior conviction for a crimen falsi crime was not admissible. In an oral motion, he objected to its admission. But when he lost that motion, his attorney brought it up during defendant’s direct examination.
Commonwealth v. Young (Criminal Law, Suppression, Warrant Overbreadth)
In this high-profile prosecution after a student’s death at a Penn State fraternity house, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s order suppressing evidence obtained from the defendants’ cellular phones. The Court’s opinion is rich in its analysis of issues involving a search warrant’s particularity requirement.
Central Dauphin Sch. Dist. v. Hawkins (Administrative Law, Right to Know Law)
A majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed its plurality decision in Easton Area School District v. Miller. The Court affirmed an order of the Commonwealth Court that required a school district to produce a video requested under the RTKL and redact students’ faces in the video.
Gibraltar Rock, Inc. v. Pa. Dep’t of Env’t Prot. (Administrative Law, Environmental Permits)
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court’s decision to grant environmental permits and remanded for the Court to consider the issue raised in Gibraltar’s review petition. The Commonwealth Court erred in considering issues not raised by Gibraltar and reversing the Environmental Hearing Board’s rescission of the permits.
In re Melamed (Administrative Law, Right to Know Law)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that Section 708(b)(7)(viii) of the RTKL did not require the Philadelphia Police Department to produce a list of officers whose dismissals were pending a grievance arbitration process in 2020.
Wykel v. Knapp (Property Law, Quiet Title)
This case involved Wife’s quiet title action and U.S. Bank’s counterclaim regarding whether U.S. Bank’s mortgage is defective because Wife did not sign it. The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the mortgage would continue to encumber Wife’s interest in the subject property.
Downs Racing, L.P. v. Pa. (Administrative Law, Tax Law)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court dealt with the proper way to determine under what circumstances casino rewards points may be deducted from the casino operator’s taxes under the Race Horse Development and Gaming Act.
State v. Morente-Dubon (Criminal Law, Sentencing)
The New Jersey Appellate Division issued several important rulings in a sentencing appeal. Most notably, the Court ruled that the lower court erred in making findings at sentencing for passion-provocation murder that were inconsistent with the jury’s verdict, overruling State v. Teat.
State v. Gray (Criminal Law, Suppression)
The New Jersey Appellate Division reversed an order that denied defendant’s motion to suppress a gun found in a car. The Court found that the State Police had no authority to open defendant’s car door without a warrant or permission.
State v. Burnham (Criminal Law, Theft)
The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that sales tax cannot be utilized in calculating the value of goods stolen for a theft charge. What prosecutor and judge needed the Appellate Division to tell them that?
Am. Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey v. Cnty. Prosecutors Ass’n of New Jersey (Open Public Records Act)
The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey is not a public agency subject to the dictates of OPRA or requests made under the common law right of access.