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. Roberts (SORNA, Sufficiency)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed defendant’s conviction for failing to comply with the registration requirements of SORNA. The Court ruled that “ignorance of the law is no excuse,” holding that defendant may not excuse noncompliance with SORNA based on alleged ignorance of his lifetime-registration obligation.
In re M.A.P. (Family Law)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court dealt with the Uniform Determination of Death Act in a case involving a girl who showed no sign of brain activity. The Court ruled that the trial court erred in allowing the hospital to discontinue care without giving her father a fair opportunity to be heard.
Firearm Owners Against Crime v. Evanchick (Administrative Law, Gun Laws)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of the State Police and dismissed a petition for review claiming that the State Police was understaffing its firearm background checks unit. Petitioners complained that it took hours for the state police to complete the checks.
Weliver v. Ortiz (Family Law, Jurisdiction)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court reviewed Section 5422 of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The Court ruled that the trial court did not have jurisdiction over several custody-related motions that were filed after all parties had moved to different states.
Matos v. Geisinger Med. Ctr. (Civil Law, Liability)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that a mental health facility may be held liable for refusal to provide voluntary inpatient examination and treatment to a person who submits himself for examination and treatment when the refusal constitutes willful misconduct or gross negligence.
State v. Smart (Suppression, Automobile Exception)
The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order suppressing evidence recovered from defendant’s automobile after the police stopped it. The Court ruled that the circumstances giving rise to probable cause were not “unforeseeable and spontaneous.” Those circumstances included the police’s: investigation of previous information from a confidential informant and a citizen about defendant, the vehicle, and narcotics trafficking in the area; lengthy surveillance of defendant and the vehicle; development of reasonable and articulable suspicion that defendant had engaged in a drug deal; positive canine sniff of the vehicle.
Castano v. Augustine (DWI, Statutory Interpretation)
The New Jersey Appellate Division strictly construed N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(b), which does not allow drunk drivers to recover civil damages, ruling that this claim was not barred because plaintiff, who probably was drunk at the time of the accident, neither pled guilty to, nor was convicted of, DWI.
Alcantara v. Allen-McMillan (Administrative Law, Education Law)
The New Jersey Appellate Division dealt with a petition alleging that the Lakewood School District was not providing its public-school students a thorough and efficient education as required by the State’s Constitution. The Court remanded for the Department of Education to consider arguments regarding the School Funding Reform Act.
Pfannenstein v. Surrey (Civil Law, Affidavit of Merit)
The New Jersey Appellate Division returned to the issue of affidavits of merit in medical negligence cases. The Court ruled that the kind-for-kind specialty requirement is not satisfied when the AOM’s affiant specialized in a subspecialty of the treating doctor’s specialty but did not specialize, nor was board certified, in the physician’s specialty.
United States v. Brow (First Step Act, Sentence Reduction)
The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of defendant’s “creative” and “intriguing” attempt to lower his sentence. Although he had completed the incarcerative portion of his sentence on a drug case, he sought unsuccessfully to lower the incarcerative period of an unrelated, consecutive sentence (for voluntary manslaughter) from another federal court.
United States v. Stoney (Criminal Law, Crime of Violence)
A habeas petitioner claimed that he did not commit a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and, therefore, should not have been subject to additional penalties. The Third Circuit disagreed, utilizing the elements test. The Court held that the record at the guilty plea hearing established a completed robbery, and not an inchoate crime, as defendant argued.
White v. Samsung Elec. Am., Inc. (Arbitration)
The Third Circuit held that under Morgan v. Sundance, Inc., 142 S. Ct. 1708 (2022), through its actions expressing an intent to litigate, Samsung waived its right to arbitration.
Skolnick v. Comm’r Internal Revenue (Tax Liability)
The Third Circuit affirmed the Tax Court’s determination that Skolnick was “not engaged in for profit” under § 183 of the Internal Revenue Code. The Court reviewed the nine non-exclusive factors in Treasury Regulation 1.183–2(b), finding the Tax Court did not clearly err.