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. McLendon (Criminal Law, Right to Counsel)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court heard an appeal from a plea where defendant and his public defender had a contentious relationship. The Court ruled that defendant need not be colloquied about his right to counsel because he forfeited his right to an attorney.

Commonwealth v. Reed (Authentification of Text Message)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed defendant’s conviction for sexually assaulting a child. The Court ruled that under Rule 901(b)(11), the Commonwealth authenticated a text message defendant sent to the victim.

Young v. City of Scranton (Statutory Interpretation, Tort Claims Act)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court engaged in a bout of statutory interpretation and determined the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act precludes derivative damages or limits damages to a reasonably objective calculation, such as a loss in property value.

In re Condemnation by the Gen. Mun. Auth. of Nanticoke (Condemnation, Preliminary Objections)

In this condemnation proceeding, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court remanded for the lower court to hold a hearing de novo to make necessary factual findings and conclusions of law. The Court ordered a new hearing because the judge, who presided over the hearing in the lower court, retired and was unavailable to clarify the record.

PSP NE, LLC v. Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Appeals Bd. (Administrative Law, Public Works)

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that a developer’s construction of a facility to be leased to the State Police was not a public work subject to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act. The developer’s lease with the Commonwealth did not satisfy all four elements of a public work. 

Matteo v. EOS USA, Inc. (Civil Law, Debt Collection)

In this debt-collection action, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that “as long as the debt collector does not initiate or threaten legal action on a time-barred debt, it is permitted to seek voluntary repayment without advising that the statute of limitations has run.”

Crocker-Fasulo v. Fasulo (Family Law, Alimony)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court dealt with a husband’s attempt to end alimony payments to his ex-wife. The Court ruled that the trial court correctly considered the 17 factors articulated in Section 3701(b) and found that the alimony should not be terminated but instead be modified downward.

Commonwealth v. Derr (Criminal Law, Preliminary Hearing)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the Commonwealth presented sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of Unlawful Use of a Computer against a police officer who accessed JNET for nefarious reasons. The Court held that SCOTUS’s decision in Van Buren v. United States was inapposite.

In re R.C.-G. (Dependency, Interpreter)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court concluded the trial court abused its discretion by not ensuring that Father was provided an effective interpreter during a child abuse hearing. Under the circumstances of this case, the trial court committed prejudicial error because Father did not have the opportunity to testify meaningfully and present evidence.

Crespo v. Hughes (Civil Law, Mootness)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court seemed to issue this opinion specifically for the trial judges of Philadelphia. The Court ruled that a motion to compel enforcement of a judgment was not moot simply because the judge who initially issued the judgment later recused himself from the litigation.

Peartstein v. Pa. (Tax Law, Personal Income Tax)

An en banc panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court overruled Taxpayers’ objections and affirmed the Court’s earlier decision, which held that a partnership should be assessed Personal Income Tax from the net gains from like-kind exchanges of real property, commonly called “1031 exchanges.”


State v. Higgs (Criminal Law, IAD Files)

The New Jersey Supreme Court vacated defendant’s murder conviction, ruling that the trial court erred in precluding defendant access to a police officer’s internal affairs file.

State v. Rosado (Criminal Law, Statute of Limitations)

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that the statute of limitations barred this prosecution. Though the 2002 amendments allow the statute of limitations to toll until the State possesses certain DNA evidence, the crime in this case occurred in 1990 when the statute of limitations was five years.

Gold Tree Spa, Inc. v. PD Nail Corp. (Civil Law, Mediation)

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that Willingboro Mall, Ltd. v. 240/242 Franklin Ave., LLC applies to court-ordered mediations under Rule 1:40-4(i) and voluntary mediation. Thus, in the future, a mediation settlement that is reached at mediation but not reduced to a signed written agreement will not be enforceable.

Birmingham v. Travelers N.J. Ins. Co. (Civil Law, Insurance Dispute)

The New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that nothing in the insurance policies’ declaration pages, coverage grants, or exclusions clearly communicated to plaintiffs that their statutorily mandated PIP liability limits would be reduced by the amount of their chosen deductibles, particularly concerning claims that exceed the coverage limits.


United States v Henderson (Sentencing, “Crime of Violence”)

The Third Circuit held that under Pennsylvania law, conspiracy to commit robbery does not constitute a “crime of violence” for purposes of the career offender enhancement.

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