Below are 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 entire opinion.
Save Our Saltsburg Schs. v. River Valley Sch. Dist. (Administrative Law, Education Law)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court rejected an appeal from community members who sought to stop two schools from merging. The Court ruled that Section 780 of the Public School Code created a procedural due process right to a hearing before such a school closure. Here, that hearing took place.
Commonwealth v. Howard (Criminal Law, PCRA, After-discovered Evidence)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the defendant’s PCRA petition was untimely. The Court held that the alleged admissions in the Joint State Government Commission Report on Capital Punishment Report do not constitute new facts upon which the defendant might eventually obtain relief.
Toppy v. Passage Bio Inc. (Employment Law, Preliminary Objections)
In this employment dispute, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for breach of a settlement agreement and violation of the Wage Payment Collection Law. The Court ruled that the trial court erred by ruling that the settlement agreement was unenforceable because it was not formalized.
Pa. Envtl. De. Found. v. Com. (Administrative Law, Environmental Law)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that the Snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle Law does not violate the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Court ruled that the ATV laws do not unreasonably impair citizens’ rights protected by the Environmental Rights Amendment.
Polish Hill Civil Ass’n v. Pittsburgh Zoning Bd. of Adjustment (Administrative Law, Zoning)
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court delved into zoning. A group of nonconforming lots predated zoning laws. A developer wanted to consolidate them into one lot and then redivide them. The Court ruled that they would not be nonconforming once they were consolidated and would thus lose the protections of a preexisting nonconformity.
Gilligan v. Junod (Civil Law, Affidavit of Merit)
The New Jersey Appellate Division revisited affidavits of merit and issued a critical opinion for personal injury attorneys. The Court ruled that a licensed practical nurse is not a “licensed person” under the AOM statute and reversed an order dismissing a case for failure to provide an AOM.
United States v. Langley (Criminal Law, Anders)
The Third Circuit clarified counsel’s obligations for filing an Anders brief. The Court held that counsel’s omission of frivolous issues raised by the defendant’s pro se brief is irrelevant if counsel’s brief reflects a conscientious examination of the record and adequately discusses the potentially appealable issues.
Adorers of the Blood of Christ United States Province v. Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC (Civil Law, Administrative Law)
The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Adorers’ complaint seeking monetary damages. The Court ruled that the Adorers’ failure to present their claims to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the years-long administrative proceedings foreclosed their claim under the Natural Gas Act’s exclusive-review framework.
Stradford v. Sec’y Pa. Dept. Of Corr. (Class Action, Summary Judgment)
The Third Circuit ruled that the Department of Corrections’s halfway house policy that considered “community sensitivity,” among many other factors, is rationally related to more than one legitimate government interest. Therefore, the policy does not unconstitutionally discriminate against sex Offenders.