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NEWS
May 5, 2015
JUDICIAL ELECTIONS are like chloroform: colorless and capable of rendering one unconscious. That we hold them statewide is an affront to common sense. Nobody knows the candidates. Their campaigns are funded by those seeking favor with the court. And qualifications to serve are almost immaterial. But that Pennsylvania is one of just six states holding partisan elections of state judges is no surprise. We are, after all, the Land of Low Expectations. Take our Supreme Court - please.
NEWS
May 1, 2015
THIS WEEK, the Supreme Court voted to uphold a Florida rule prohibiting judicial candidates from personally seeking campaign contributions. The court affirmed that those running for judge in Florida can't directly solicit money - but can write thank-you notes to donors. The ruling was especially welcome given the Court's recent history of decisions that support money's increasing influence in elections starting with, but not limited to, Citizens United. That decision opened the floodgates of independent political expenditures - including "dark money" - from corporations, unions and other organizations.
NEWS
May 1, 2015 | BY VALERIE RUSS, Daily News Staff Writer russv@phillynews.com, 215-854-5987
CITIZENS CAN'T stop the Franklin Institute from putting a digital sign outside the museum near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Commonwealth Court has ruled. In a 6-1 decision last week, the court found that nearby residents, who want to challenge the legality of the Zoning Board of Adjustment issuing a variance to allow the digital sign, don't live close enough to be negatively affected by a digital sign. Samuel C. Stretton, the attorney representing the Logan Square residents and Scenic Philadelphia, said he would file a petition to the state Supreme Court next week asking for the right to appeal the decision.
NEWS
April 29, 2015 | By Joseph A. Slobodzian, Inquirer Staff Writer
The landmark child-endangerment conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn - the first Catholic Church official found guilty for his role supervising priests in the clergy sex-abuse scandal - was reinstated Monday by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court. Writing for the 4-1 majority of the state's high court, Justice Max Baer said Superior Court erred when it reversed Lynn's conviction because he did not directly supervise children. At issue was whether a 2007 amendment to the child-endangerment statute, which specifically included supervisory personnel as open to criminal culpability, expanded the original 1995 law or simply clarified it. If the amendments just expanded the law, Lynn would have been unconstitutionally convicted for acts that predated the amendments.
NEWS
April 25, 2015 | By Chris Brennan, Inquirer Staff Writer
Philadelphia City Commissioner Stephanie Singer's name will not appear on the May 19 primary election ballot, Commonwealth Court ruled Thursday. The court rejected Singer's appeal of a Common Pleas Court ruling March 30 striking her name from the ballot. Singer needed at least 1,000 signatures from registered Democrats on nomination petitions to be listed on the ballot. She filed 1,485 but a review during a legal challenge found that just 996 were valid. That left her four names short in her bid for a second four-year term.
NEWS
April 24, 2015 | BY BOB STEWART, Daily News Staff Writer stewarr@phillynews.com, 215-854-4890
PROTESTERS, police and lawyers packed a tiny courtroom in the basement of the Criminal Justice Center yesterday for the trial of 10 people accused of disorderly conduct stemming from their arrests at a March incident during which protesters stormed a community meeting in Lawncrest. Extra security was on hand as the crowd overflowed into the hallway. After what transpired in the courtroom angered them further, the group moved outside to 13th and Filbert streets holding signs and chanting, "F--- the police.
NEWS
April 23, 2015 | By Kristen A. Graham and Martha Woodall, Inquirer Staff Writers
A lawsuit contending that Pennsylvania's system of school funding is broken will move to the state's top court, attorneys vowed Tuesday after a lower court dismissed the case brought by school districts, parents, and advocates. Lawyers said they would appeal to the state Supreme Court after the Commonwealth Court ruled that education funding was a legislative issue and not a legal matter. "This is a question of paramount importance to all Pennsylvanians, and we always knew this would ultimately be decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court," said Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, part of the team that represents petitioners in this case.
NEWS
April 23, 2015 | BY SOLOMON LEACH, Daily News Staff Writer leachs@phillynews.com, 215-854-5903
COMMONWEALTH Court yesterday dismissed a lawsuit accusing the state of failing to adequately and equitably fund Pennsylvania public schools. The complaint was filed by six school districts, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, who said they plan to appeal to the state Supreme Court. "This is a question of paramount importance to all Pennsylvanians, and we always knew this would ultimately be decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court," Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia executive director Jennifer Clarke, a member of the legal team representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
NEWS
April 19, 2015 | By Jason Laughlin, Inquirer Staff Writer
In 15 years, Gary Lowenthal has donated to one candidate - and only twice. He gave a friend, Michael George, $500 in a 2001 race for Adams County Court judge. In January, he gave to George again. That donation was a thousand times larger. "Without the support of the people in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia - and that's the money centers - I don't think he'd have the opportunity to get on the trail and tell his story and let the voters decide," Lowenthal said Friday about the biggest donation this year in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court race.
NEWS
April 19, 2015 | By Chris Mondics, Inquirer Staff Writer
A fortune in 1930s gold coins seized by the federal government from the family of a deceased Philadelphia jeweler must be returned, a federal appeals court said Friday. For more than a decade, the U.S. Treasury Department insisted, and persuaded a jury, that the rare coins had been stolen and belonged to the government. But on Friday it lost the argument and the coins - because of paperwork. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said the government had failed to file a timely forfeiture action, and therefore had waived its right to keep 10 rare 1933 $20 double eagle gold coins.
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