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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.   On the opinion side, I'm most impressed by Rivera, which is an excellent walk through a complicated issue.  Rivera tilts at separating the complexities not only between federal and state jurisprudence concerning the comments on 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.  Justice Brobson's majority opinion, together with Justice Wecht's concurrence, read in tandem as something of a primer on the issue, Justice Brobson explaining in depth how we have come to this multiplicity of standards, and Justice Wecht offering guidance as to how practitioners should go forward.  Although one can certainly read that there may be some differences between the Justices' normative views, this is simply excellent judicial writing.

On the allocatur side, I'm most interested in B.C., which will consider the applicability of the presumption of paternity in a case involving putative parents separated at the time of conception and at other times, has the potential to impact a lot of cases.  The adoption of, and most glosses on, the presumption of paternity came some time ago, when social mores surrounding marriage -- which the presumption purportedly serves to protect -- and family were decidedly more aspirational than realistic.  It will be interesting to see how the court decides to deal with (or not deal with) the intervening social change.

Precedential Opinions

Commonwealth v. Dunn, 10 WAP 2022 (per curiam) (holding that the procedural rules concerning mandatory discovery apply to statutorily permitted sexual abuse experts but affirming the denial of a new trial by want of a majority)

Commonwealth v. Rivera, 22 MAP 2022 (Majority Opinion by Brobson, J.) (reiterating the differences between comments on pre-arrest and post-arrest silence and concomitant analyses for determining whether they constitute harmless error)

In the Int. of K.T.; Apl of CYF, 37 & 38 WAP 2022 (Majority Opinion by Dougherty, J.) (clarifying bonds analysis in termination-of-parental-rights cases)

Note: The Court also issued a correction to its May opinion in Commonwealth v. Koger, 15 WAP 2022, clarifying a misstatement of the law on an (arguably) collateral point.  You can find it here.

Allocatur Grants

Wolfe v. Reading Blue Mountain, 586 & 587 MAL 2022 (granting review to consider the Commonwealth's application of certain eminent-domain caselaw in light of a subsequently adopted statute)

B.C. v. C.P. & D.B., 61 WAL 2023 (granting review to consider the applicability of the presumption of paternity in a case involving periodic separation)

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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