Below are summaries of the precedential appellate decisions from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Third Circuit for the week of September 19. Click on a case name, and you will be redirected to the court’s entire opinion.
Commonwealth v. Moser
The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the Court of Common Pleas’ ruling that a search warrant was not overbroad, and the search of the Notes app on the defendant’s phone was within the warrant’s scope. The Court held that the warrant was not overbroad because the search was limited to the data related to his relationship with the victim. And the data in the Notes app fell within the purview of “all calls/messages/conversations/photos/videos.” The Court also ruled that the defendant waived his challenge to the imposition of consecutive sentences because he did not challenge it first in a post-sentence motion.
Criminal Law, Search Warrant, Sentencing
Commonwealth v. Bieber
The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated the defendant’s conviction for carrying a firearm without a license. The Court ruled that “the trial court abused its discretion in denying unitary review by erroneously concluding that the defendant failed to show good cause under the second exception enunciated in Commonwealth v. Holmes, 79 A.3d 562 (Pa. 2013). The trial court should have permitted the defendant to raise his ineffectiveness claims on direct appeal because the record demonstrated that the remaining length of his sentence is too short to afford him a realistic ability to obtain meaningful consideration of his IAC claims during collateral review under the PCRA.”
Criminal Law, Ineffective Assistance
Shoemaker v. UPMC Pinnacle Hosp.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court deserves some credit. The Court could have punted but instead decided to wade into a dispute over ivermectin and COVID-19. At issue was a preliminary injunction compelling a hospital to administer ivermectin to an ER patient suffering from COVID. The Superior Court ruled that the preliminary injunction was erroneously entered. But the patient died during the litigation, so the issue was moot. Nonetheless, the Court saw the overwhelming public importance of this issue and gave a heck of a lesson on civil and appellate procedure before reversing the lower court’s ruling.
Civil Law, Preliminary Injunction
L.L.B. v. T.R.B.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed an order of the Court of Common Pleas that compelled a minor to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The child’s mother wanted him vaccinated, and the father disagreed. The Court ruled that the lower court properly considered the child’s best interests and an expert report.
Family Law, COVID-19
Nunez v. Blough
The Commonwealth Court ordered an opinion from July be published. The appeal involved a prisoner’s claim of retaliation by the guards at his state correctional facility. The Court reversed the order dismissing his suit as frivolous, finding that the trial court engaged in flawed reasoning regarding three of the four elements necessary for the suit.
Administrative Law, Prisoner Litigation
It is unclear to the professional ghostwriters at Sullivan | Simon if the New Jersey appellate courts have enough judges to work through the caseload. The state’s appellate courts have not issued a precedential opinion in more than two weeks.
Saint-Jean v. Palisades Interstate Park Comm.
The Third Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the appeal of an interlocutory order in this civil rights suit. Police officers searched the plaintiff’s vehicle, misidentified heart-shaped Valentine’s Day candies as illegal drugs, and arrested and prosecuted someone. After the heart-shaped objects were lab tested, the truth came out: they were just candies. Even with that knowledge, dropping the charges took nearly four additional months. The falsely accused driver then sued for violations of several constitutional rights and for torts under New Jersey law. Each of the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint. The District Court partially granted that motion. The Court rejected the officers’ request for qualified immunity for the driver’s Fourth Amendment and related state-law claims but granted the motion to dismiss one of the constitutional claims against the officers and all of the claims against the prosecutor and the governmental entities. Each dismissal was without prejudice, and the order permitted the driver 30 days to amend his complaint. The officers filed a notice of appeal to challenge the District Court’s denial of qualified immunity under federal and New Jersey law. But before the officers appealed, the driver had amended his complaint. Due to that amendment, the District Court’s order was not final when the officers appealed. Therefore, the Third Circuit did not have jurisdiction.
Civil Suit, Jurisdiction
Lutz v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC
The Third Circuit channeled its inner seventh-grade English teacher in affirming the grant of the defendant’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion in this suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The plaintiff alleged that a debt-collection agency that bought a consumer’s debt from Capital One could not collect interest above the cap set by Pennsylvania’s Consumer Credit Code. The Court affirmed, granting the motion with prejudice. The opinion digs deep into the grammar well with reasoning such as, “the transitive verb ‘negotiate,’ used as a gerund in a gerund phrase, is linked with another transitive verb.” Click here for a description of gerunds.
Civil Law, 12(b)(6)
Peace Church Risk Retention Grp. v. Johnson Controls Fire Prot.
The Third Circuit remanded this case, which involved various tort claims. The Court was not convinced about the existence of diversity jurisdiction. In an issue of first impression, the Court held that the citizenship of reciprocal insurance exchanges turns on the citizenship of their subscribers.
Insurance Dispute, Jurisdiction