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December 2023 Docket Review

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

This month on SCOPAblog, the court issued 4 precedential opinions and 6 grants of allocatur.  On the opinion side, things are a bit dry, but that does not mean they are uninteresting.  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.  The opinion is likely to be cited, and any practitioner would do well to dig into it, in future procedural due process cases, even if the specific right it confers will not likely be of much practical benefit to the inmates at this juncture.  But isn't process itself exactly the point of procedural due process?

On the allocatur side, solicitors in every one of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts should be paying attention to Penncrest, potentially within reach of some Advil.  In that case, the Court will consider the proper standards for application of the Right-to-Know-Law to school-board members personal social-media posts pertaining to district business -- specifically, two school-board members' personal social-media posts highlighting an queer-friendly book display at a school library and making anti-queer comments.  Below, the Commonwealth Court endeavored to answer this question of first impression, which is one of first impression, and, whether the Court's grant of allocatur simply derives from the fact that it is a question of first impression and substantial public importance, or, on the other hand, the Court thinks the Commonwealth Court got it wrong, it will be interesting (and helpful) to see the court lay down some clear guidance.

Precedential Opinions

Tambellini v. Erie Insurance, 21-24 WAP 2022 (Majority Opinion by Wecht, J.) (holding a court may not order coordination under Pa.R.C.P. 213.1 of similar cases not yet filed)

Washington v. PA Dept. of Corrections, 13 MAP 2022 (Majority Opinion by Donohue, J.) (holding that correctional facilities must provide notice and an opportunity to be heard before increasing certain deductions from inmate accounts)

Greenwood Gaming v. Dept. of Rev., 76 MAP 2021 (Majority Opinion by Donohue, J.) (holding that the Commonwealth Court erred in eschewing a subjective, holistic comparison of online lottery games with casino games in favor of more narrow, elements-based comparison, for purposes of applying regulations confining lottery and casinos to their respective online markets)

Dept. of Corrs. v. Lynn, 95-96 MAP 2022 (Majority Opinion by Wecht, J.) (holding the ascension of an unclassified service employee to a classified service position is not a promotion within the meaning of two civil-service statutes and, thus, that applying a veterans preference does not violate anti-discrimination provisions of one of the statutes)

Allocatur Grants

Penncrest SD v. Cagle, 103 WAL 2023 (granting review to consider the application of the Right-to-Know-Law to school board members' personal social-media posts regarding district business)

Winig v. Office of DA of Phila.,133 EAL 2023 (granting review to consider whether prosecutors are immune from suit under the Wiretap Act)

CKHS, Inc. v. Prospect Med. Hldgs., 299 & 300 MAL 2023 (granting review to review the Commonwealth's Court's observance of the standard of review in a case involving a preliminary injunction precluding the conversion of a Delaware County hospital into a behavioral health facility)

Commonwealth v. Vision Property Mgmt., LLC, 171 WAL 2023 (granting review to consider the Commonwealth Court's application of waiver doctrine and the scope of relief permitted by a general prayer for relief in a consumer protection enforcement action)

Wunderly v. Saint Luke's Hospital, 369 MAL 2023 (granting review to consider whether claims arising out of treatment during, but arguably not directly related to, a mental-health commitment are subject to the immunity provisions of the Mental Health Procedures Act)

Commonwealth v. Foster, 194 WAL 2023 (granting review to consider whether an officer's indication that an interviewee was not a suspect renders his ensuing statements involuntary and inadmissible)

About the Author

Corrie Woods

Corrie is our primary litigator, and focuses his practice on appellate, criminal, and post-conviction cases. Corrie also authors the firm's blog, SCOPABlog, which is the only regularly updated blog providing comprehensive coverage of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania's docket. Corrie became an a...

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