Below are 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. Wallace (Evidence, GPS Data)
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that GPS data collected from an electronic monitor is not hearsay. The evidence is not hearsay because it does not constitute a statement made by a declarant, as outlined in Rule 801, as it is not an assertion (or the nonverbal conduct) of a person. But the Court also held that such evidence is subject to challenge under Rule 901(b)(9).
Read J. Wecht’s concurring opinion here.
Myers v. Commonwealth (Sales Tax, Statutory Interpretation)
This appeal concerned Myers’ efforts to obtain a refund of the sales tax he paid on purchases with coupons at BJ’s. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court interpreted 61 Pa. Code § 33.2(b) and ruled that none of the receipts Myers presented satisfied subsection 33.2(b)(2) ’s description requirement.
Commonwealth v. Johnson (PCRA, Capital Murder)
In a 136-page magnum opus, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of defendant’s PCRA petition in this capital case. Defendant claimed 22 errors in his brief. None were meritorious.
Read J. Donohue’s concurring opinion here.
Clean Air Council v. Pa. DEP (Administrative Law, Environmental Law)
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Hearing Board erred in implementing a per se bad-faith standard to determine whether to assess fees arising from Clean Streams Law appeals against private parties. The Board erred because a categorically exclusionary bad-faith requirement is incompatible with the CSL’s remedial intent.
Synthes USA HQ, Inc. v. Commonwealth (Administrative Law, Tax Law)
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court confronted two issues. First, it held that the Attorney General was permitted to take a position on behalf of the Commonwealth that is inconsistent with the Department of Revenue. Second, the Court analyzed what income was “sourced” to Pennsylvania for corporate net income tax purposes.
Read J. Todd’s concurring opinion here.
Read J. Dougherty’s concurring and dissenting opinion here.
United States v. Harris (Criminal Law, Certified Question)
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court answered the Third Circuit’s certified question by holding that first-degree aggravated assault does not require physical force. In essence, the Court affirmed Commonwealth v. Thomas, wherein a mother starved her child to death and was convicted of aggravated assault without using force.
Read J. Mundy’s concurring opinion here.
Commonwealth v. Knupp (Criminal Law, Evidence)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the denial of defendant’s car-stop suppression motion and permitted evidence of earlier uncharged drug sales. The Court found no error in allowing evidence of ammunition recovered during the car stop but sua sponte vacated his K&I sentence because it merged with PWID.
Rickell v. Pa. Dep’t of Transp., Bureau of Driver Licensing (Administrative Law, License Suspension)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that ARD is not a “prior offense.” Thus, Section 3804(e)(1) of the Vehicle Code does not require suspending a driver’s license when the motorist was accepted into ARD, kicked out after picking up new charges unrelated to Section 3806, and then pleaded guilty to DUI.
In re Protest of Contract for Retail Pharmacy Design (Administrative Law, Jurisdiction)
The New Jersey Appellate Division dismissed this appeal, holding that the Legislature did not intend to make University Hospital a state administrative agency. Therefore, the Hospital’s final decisions are not directly appealable to the Court under Rule 2:2-3(a)(2).
Adams v. Yang (Civil Law, Judicial Estoppel)
The New Jersey Appellate Division refused to extend Glassman v. Friedel’s interpretation of judicial estoppel that applied to successive tortfeasors to joint tortfeasors.
C.W. v. Roselle Bd. of Educ. (Civil Law, Damages)
The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that an alleged victim of sexual abuse by a teacher is precluded from seeking pain and suffering damages under the Tort Claims Act because he had not satisfied the medical expense threshold under N.J.S.A. 59:9-2(d)
United States v. Brasby (Sentencing, “Crime of Violence”)
The Third Circuit affirmed the District Court’s sentencing enhancement, ruling that a conviction under the New Jersey aggravated assault statute qualifies as a crime of violence. The Court decided this case under the enumerated offenses clause, not the elements clause of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a