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. Perrin (Stipulations)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court was “tasked with determining whether the trial court erred in refusing to accept a proposed stipulation as to witness credibility in the context of a post-sentence motion for a new trial.” The Court ruled that as the factfinder, the trial court had sole authority to make credibility determinations. Therefore, the parties’ attempt to stipulate to a witness’s credibility intruded into the trial court’s jurisdiction and prerogative. Thus, the stipulation was neither valid nor enforceable.

Commonwealth v. Watson (Criminal Law, Insanity)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed defendant’s conviction for carjacking and rejected her argument that the evidence was insufficient to disprove her insanity claim. The Court mostly agreed with the trial court that defendant had the capacity to understand the wrongfulness of her conduct despite her schizophrenia. 

Yount v. Pa. Lawyers Fund for Client Security (Administrative Law, Attorney Discipline)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that plaintiff could not obtain an audio recording of a proceeding before a hearing committee of the Lawyers Fund for Client Security with a subpoena. The Court ruled that the plaintiff-attorney could only subpoena a witness, not an audio recording.

Commonwealth v. Lewis (Right to Counsel)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated defendant’s convictions of attempted murder and remanded the case for a new trial. The Court held that the trial court violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by disqualifying his counsel.

Taylor v. Pa. State Corr. Officers Assoc. (Unions, Preliminary Objections)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s order granting preliminary objections. The Court ruled that because an “inherently critical document” was not included in the certified record on appeal, the Court could not find a sufficient basis to establish that defendant acted arbitrarily, irrationally, or fraudulently.

Santiago v. Philly Trampoline Park (Trampoline Park Litigation, Arbitration)

Trampoline litigation returns to the weekly caselaw update! The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that a parent’s status as a child’s natural guardian did not ipso facto grant the parent the authority to bind their minor children to an arbitration agreement.

Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc. v. Commonwealth (Tax Law)

An en banc panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that in light of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in GM II, Alcatel-Lucent was due a tax refund of corporate net income tax paid for the 2014 Tax Year. 

Galette v. NJ Transit (Civil Law, Sovereign Immunity)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the lower court’s refusal to award NJ Transit sovereign immunity was an immediately-appealable collateral order. The Court then threw some shade at the Third Circuit and Dirty Jersey by declining to find sovereign immunity, contrary to the Federal Court’s earlier holdings.

In re Nomination Petition of Turner (Election Law)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court denied an objection petition seeking to set aside the nomination petition of a candidate to appear on the ballot in the General Primary Election to be held on May 16, 2023, as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the office of Judge of Municipal Court. 

Edwards v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co. (Civil Law, Relation Back Doctrine)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that a personal representative’s suit filed on behalf of a decedent related back to her earlier suit, which was filed before being named personal representative. The statute of limitations tolled between the cases. The Court ruled that defendant was on notice, and nothing had changed concerning the claims.

Read Justice Stablie’s dissent here.


In re M.U. (Gun Permits)

In a 66-page novella, the New Jersey Appellate Division considered the United States Supreme Court’s recent Second Amendment decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen in ruling that N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(5), which restricts the issuance of handgun purchase permits and firearms purchaser identification cards, is constitutional.

State v. Higginbotham (Criminal Law, First Amendment)

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the State’s 2018 child erotica amendments to the child endangerment statute are overbroad and unconstitutional. The Court gave a laudable overview of First Amendment jurisprudence en route to dismissing defendant’s indictment for second and third-degree child endangerment.


Mack v. Yost (Civil Law, Free Exercise)

The Third Circuit reversed a grant of qualified immunity to a prisoner who claimed his jailers violated his right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. The Court permitted plaintiff’s claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to continue. 

Pacira Biosciences, Inc. v. Am. Society of Anesthesiologists (F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6), Trade Libel)

The Third Circuit ruled that the District Court correctly granted defendants’ motion to dismiss because plaintiff failed to state a basis for relief. Defendants’ statements that formed the basis of plaintiff’s trade libel claim were nonactionable opinions.

United States v. Perez-Colon (Criminal Law, Sentencing)

Defendant appealed his sentence of numerous counts of child pornography involving two victims. The Third Circuit found merit in his arguments about USSG § 2G2.1(b)(5) (two-level increase if defendant is parent/guardian), § 4B1.5(b) (five-level increase for “pattern of activity”), and § 3D1.4 (grouping counts), but nonetheless affirmed.

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