SCOPAblog

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Authored by managing attorney Corrie Woods, SCOPAblog is the only publication providing comprehensive, monthly coverage of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania's precedential opinions and allocatur grants. This docket review is an unbiased resource beneficial to litigators and legal professionals across the state.

Occasionally, Corrie discusses pressing decisions at greater length on The Standard of Review podcast, featuring guest attorneys from the Pittsburgh region.

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June 2024 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Jun 30, 2024 | 0 Comments

This month on SCOPAblog, the Court's two criminal opinions offer glosses on Commonwealth v. Bradley, in which the Court previously recognized a procedural path for petitioners in postconviction cases to challenge the stewardship of postconviction counsel. The Court's conception of Bradley is still far from clear, but Parrish and Greer offer a little more illumination.

May 2024 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | May 31, 2024 | 0 Comments

This month on SCOPAblog, I'm most interested in Torsilieri.  In that case, the court faced two challenges to Pennsylvania's sexual offender registration and notification regime: (1) a claim that the statute was predicated on an false, irrebutable presumption that sexual offenders are highly likely to reoffend; and (2) a claim that the statute imposed requirements that were essentially equivalent to probation, were punitive, and were imposed without criminal procedural protections and were cruel and unusual punishment.  A distinguishing factor of the case is that, unlike prior challenges to prior iterations of Pennsylvania's sexual offender registration regimes, the trial court in this matter decided in favor of Torsilieri.

April 2024 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Apr 30, 2024 | 0 Comments

This month on SCOPAblog, the court issued 5 precedential opinions and 13 grants of allocatur.  On the allocatur side, the Court is on something of a roll.  In the criminal context, it has granted several cases that appear to involve challenges to long-frustrating problems in criminal practice.  For example, in Lewis, it appears poised to drill down on the longstanding problem of what constitutes a "high crime area" for purposes of the detention of criminal suspects. Although I have previously written that the Court's interest in the reassessment of unfair criminal procedural rules has waned, I would be happy for the Court to make a liar out of me.

March 2024 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Mar 31, 2024 | 0 Comments

This month on SCOPAblog, I am most interested in N.E.M. wherein the Court's statements might be read as evincing some ambivalence about the gap of appellate review in theory and in practice. Are Pennsylvania appellate courts reasonably staffed and funded to fulfill their purposes?

February 2024 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Feb 29, 2024 | 0 Comments

This month on SCOPAblog, I'm most interested in Salsberg, in which the Court has for all intents and purposes recognized an arguably new tort in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: intentional interference with an at-will employment relationship. On the allocatur side, I'm most interested in Lee, which raises a challenge to Pennsylvania's mandatory sentence of life imprisonment for individuals convicted of second-degree murder, as applied to individuals who are convicted of so-called felony murder for committing or conspiring to commit a felony during which another individual commits a murder.

December 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Dec 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month on SCOPAblog, I'm most interested in Washington, in which Justice Christine Donohue authors a fairly stirring and excellently thorough majority opinion about the interstices of procedural due process, among other legal questions, ultimately in service of a holding that correctional facilities cannot unilaterally and without notice and an opportunity to be heard take inmates' money via legislatively sanctioned deductions from prison accounts. 

October 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Oct 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month, I'm most interested in Conforti, a rare unanimous opinion affirming a trial court's order granting guilt-phase relief in a death penalty case. One of the more disturbing secrets of criminal practice is that the law governing constitutionally mandated disclosure of evidence is less than clear, and fairly complex, so it is often the case that district attorneys don't disclose what they're required to disclose. Justice Mundy, writing for the Court, attempts to provide some clarity where she can and identify some unclear issues for a future case. 

September 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Sep 30, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month, the Court weighs in on constitutional procedural requirements for legislation, with mixed views, and grants review to consider three cases involving civil liability for sports-related activity. Put down your skis until you've read our September 2023 Docket Review.

August 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Aug 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month, the Court rejects an attempt to extend alcohol-furnishment liability to social hosts, rejects the Commonwealth Court's efforts to give a litigant a second bite at the apple, and grants review to reconsider the rules for police inventory searches of automobiles.

July 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Jul 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month on SCOPAblog, the Court addresses parent-unmarried partner adoptions and three cases involving the scope of civil liability, and grants review to consider insurance coverage for business losses sustained during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

June 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Jun 30, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month, the Court issued 3 precedential opinions and 2 grants of allocatur, but sometimes quality trumps quantity. I'm most impressed by Rivera, which comments on the complexities of an accused's exercise of his privilege against self incrimination, but also between the different harmless error analyses applicable to pre-arrest and post-arrest silence.

May 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | May 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month, the Court issued 7 precedential opinions and 2 grants of allocatur. First, in Armolt, the court had something of a scrum over whether and how a party can waive a claim challenging the legality of sentence -- in this case, a claim of a violation of constitutional ex post facto principles, by failing to adequately develop it. One would imagine that the Court would have addressed this issue before, but, prior to the last decade or so, its decisions limited the kinds of claims that implicated the legality of sentencing to, more or less, patent conflicts with clear statutory requirements. 

April 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Apr 30, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month, the headline-grabber is the quite shocking County of Fulton opinion, which outlines the County's, and its counsel's, course of defiance and vexatious litigation in connection with an earlier Supreme Court order directing it to cease providing third-parties access to its voting equipment pending litigation of its authority to do so. The opinion notes that the Court will refer counsel to disciplinary authorities, and concludes with a firm reiteration that defiance of judicial orders is an affront to the rule of law and harmful to adverse parties and the public interest. 

March 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Mar 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month, Perrin provides some guidance as to whether parties in a criminal case can enter into stipulations in a post-conviction context, holding that the trial court is free to reject them because witness credibility is a matter reserved for the court. Notably, Justice Dougherty opines further that a court is not free to accept them, as stipulations are reserved for actual, tangible facts, which he views as exclusive of witness credibility. Green is also interesting, less for its holding that a statute regarding juvenile decertifications means what it says, but more for the cogent discussion of the absurdity canon.

February 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Feb 28, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month on SCOPAblog, I'm most interested in the Court's decision in Ball, which holds that the Election Code's dating requirements for absentee and mail-in ballots are mandatory, rather than directory, such that they should not be counted. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that the Court was equally divided on whether that interpretation of the Code occasions a violation of federal civil rights law.

January 2023 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Jan 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

This month, the Court issued 4 precedential opinions and 4 grants of allocatur. On the opinion side, I'm most interested in Avery, which interprets the "sore loser" provisions of the Election Code to limit the circumstances in which candidates for office can withdraw from a party primary and run as third-party candidates in the general election.

December 2022 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Dec 30, 2022 | 0 Comments

This month, the Court issued 3 precedential opinions and 2 grants of allocatur. On the opinion side, nothing so entertaining as a good Christmas movie, but a few interesting points worth making.  In Gibraltar Rock, the Court reemphasized that lower appellate courts should not raise issues sua sp...

November 2022 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Nov 30, 2022 | 0 Comments

The Court issued 3 precedential opinions and 2 allocatur grants in November 2022. This month on SCOPABlog, the Court reminds courts to stick the law and avoid getting too folksy in defining "reasonable doubt," and takes up review to address a conflict between the Adoption Act's mid-20th century mores and the reality of modern family arrangements.

October 2022 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Oct 31, 2022 | 0 Comments

This month, the Court issued 4 precedential opinions and 5 allocatur grants. On the opinion side, the Court in Scott dealt with a creative, if ill-fated, effort to challenge Pennsylvania's statute providing that defendants convicted of second-degree murder (i.e., committing a felony during which...

September 2022 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Oct 02, 2022 | 0 Comments

This month, the Court issued 8 precedential opinions and 2 allocatur grants, summarized below.  But the Court's work product this month is overshadowed by the tragic loss of Chief Justice Max Baer, who passed away this weekend at the age of 74, just three months from what would otherwise have bee...

August 2022 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Aug 31, 2022 | 0 Comments

This month, the Court issued 9 opinions and 4 allocatur grants.  On the opinion side, McLinko, which is the latest in legal challenges to Pennsylvania's 2020 mail-in voting legislation, has likely grabbed the most headlines.  For the uninitiated, the legislation was initially the product of all-t...

July 2022 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Jul 31, 2022 | 0 Comments

This month the court issued 4 precedential opinions and 3 allocatur grants.   On the opinion side, On the allocatur side, Precedential Opinions In re: Nomination of Jordan, 56 MAP 2022 (Opinion by Wecht, J.) (holding qualification challenges to candidates for General Assembly are justiciable ...

June 2022 Docket Review

Posted by Corrie Woods | Jul 01, 2022 | 0 Comments

This month on SCOPABlog, the Court issued five precedential opinions and eleven grants of allocatur On the opinion side, the Court issued two opinions refining its "illegal sentence" doctrines, one of the more confusing areas of Pennsylvania criminal law, in part because the phrase "illegal sent...

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