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.


Pinnacle Amusement, LLC v. Bureau of Liquor Control (Gambling Devices)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed the lower court’s grant of Pinnacle Amusement, LLC’s motions for return of property as to all gaming machines seized by the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (“BLCE”) and denying BLCE’s forfeiture petitions. The primary issue was whether the Court should interpret the evidence regarding the games as showing a predominance of skill or chance.


State v. Amer (Interstate Agreement on Detainers)

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of defendant’s motion to dismiss his indictment. The Court held that a defendant who has filed a pretrial motion in an IAD case should be considered “unable to stand trial” during the pendency of a pretrial motion, with an important caveat: the statute’s 180-day trial deadline should not be tolled during any portion of the period in which defendant’s motion was pending that would not be considered excludable time for speedy trial purposes under Rule 3:25-4(i)(3).

State v. Vanderee (Suppression, Search Incident to Arrest)

The New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the denial of defendant’s suppression motion. The Court held that the warrantless search of the pile of defendant’s clothing in an emergency room was a valid search incident to arrest.

Makuch v. Jackson Twp. (Municipal Law, Due Process)

This appeal arose from an action challenging the suspension of a company that had been providing towing services in a municipality. The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment, dismissing the towing company’s claims about procedural and substantive due process as well as equal protection violations.

McKnight v. Toys “R” Us (Unemployment Compensation)

The central issue in this appeal was whether a claimant, who is otherwise separated from full-time employment, may include wages received from a part-time position, which they continue to maintain, in calculating their average weekly wage for purposes of unemployment benefits. The New Jersey Appellate Division concluded that the exclusion of wages contravenes the legislative purpose of the unemployment benefits statute and is arbitrary as well as legally unsupported.


United States v. Carey (Sufficiency, Variance from the Indictment)

The Third Circuit vacated the defendant’s conviction for drug trafficking, ruling that insufficient evidence supported his conviction for possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of narcotics. The evidence proved defendant possessed about 300 grams of drugs on the date the indictment charged. To uphold defendant’s conviction based on possessions occurring five to six months before that date in a different county would constitute a variance from the indictment, would be prejudicial to defendant, and would place him at risk of double jeopardy.

Mandrid-Mancia v. Att’y Gen. (Immigration Law, Removal)

The petitioner received a “Notice to Appear” from the Department of Homeland Security informing her that she faced removal, but it omitted the date and time of her hearing. Years later, the Department sent a second document (this one labeled “Notice of Hearing”), providing the missing information. When the petitioner did not appear as directed, she was ordered removed in absentia. The Third Circuit vacated the order because Congress only allows a supplemental notice when there is a change or postponement in the time and place of the proceedings. No change or postponement occurred here, and the Department never issued a new Notice to Appear.

OI European Group B.V. v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Jurisdiction, Sovereign Immunity)

Four years ago, the Third Circuit held that Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PDVSA”) operated as Venezuela’s alter ego and allowed a judgment creditor to attach PDVSA’s shares in a U.S. subsidiary. In this consolidated appeal, PDVSA argued that due to the changes in the Venezuelan government, PDVSA was no longer the country’s alter ego. The Third Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling that PDVSA remains the alter ego of Venezuela and lacks sovereign immunity.

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