July 14, 2015 |
The Nov. 3 general election for three open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was already shaping up as a doozy. A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge appears ready to turn that race even more on its ear. Paul Panepinto, a judge for 24 years, left the Republican Party on March 26, registering to vote as an independent. That makes him eligible to run for the state's highest court without a party label. The race already includes three Democrats and three Republicans.
July 14, 2015 |
How many lawyers does it take to fund a Supreme Court race? Almost a thousand, according to recently filed documents that provide a detailed picture of who gave to whom in this year's race for three seats on the state's high court. Why they gave - and what the benefits may be - are not always clear. Among the lawyers who collectively gave about $1.5 million to judicial candidates are some who likely will eventually represent clients before the state's high court. The host of litigators is joined by political action committees, unions, business owners, and regular folks who, from Jan. 1 to June 8, made 4,130 contributions totaling $5.6 million in a state that has no limits on individual spending.
June 28, 2015 |
John Speer rested a rainbow flag - the same one Mayor Nutter ordered Friday to fly at City Hall - on one shoulder. Speer, 72, came out in 1976. Before that, he sneaked into gay bars. "I really didn't think I'd live to see this day," said Speer, one of hundreds who convened on Independence Mall to celebrate a Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right. Nutter, less than an hour after his flight from Italy landed in Philadelphia, read from the Declaration of Independence.
June 26, 2015
POPE FRANCIS hasn't even arrived, but already yesterday brought two miracles. Both are court rulings, and both will ensure millions of Pennsylvanians will be able to lead healthier lives. First, the state Commonwealth Court struck down Act 192 that would have allowed the National Rifle Association to sue Pennsylvania cities that enact local gun laws, and demand taxpayers pay their legal fees. The law was an affront to big cities like ours that are fighting against gun violence. The court's decision dealt a rare defeat for the NRA, a miracle for which we have two words: Praise Jesus.
June 22, 2015 |
After countless hours of courtroom argument, dozens of briefs, and seemingly endless legal maneuvering, the fate of President Obama's Affordable Care Act comes down to the meaning of six simple words. On June 28, 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court first narrowly upheld the law, it seemed the bitter struggle over Obama's huge expansion of federally funded health care had come to an end. But the calm was short-lived. Within a few months, conservative legal theorists seized on a little-noticed sentence in the law that seemed to limit federal assistance for consumers to buy health insurance purchased on state-established exchanges, or marketplaces.
June 21, 2015 |
Money helped, but it did not guarantee wins in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court race. At $1.5 million, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Kevin Dougherty was the top fund-raiser in the 12-way campaign, according to financial documents made public Thursday. And while the Democrat did win nomination in the May 19 primary, correlations between cash and votes were hard to find. Jefferson County Court Judge John Foradora, with $712,805 - about $6 for each vote cast for him - had the second-biggest money pot, but the Republican lost.
June 19, 2015 |
Pennsylvania's Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed a lower-court ruling vacating the death sentence of convicted cop-killer Edward Bracey and ordering him to serve life in prison without parole. The state's high court ruled, 4-1, that Bracey may not be executed for the 1991 shooting of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Boyle because he is "intellectually disabled" and the U.S. Supreme Court barred such executions in 2002 in Atkins v. Virginia. First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann said Wednesday that it was "very unlikely" his office would appeal.
May 22, 2015 |
Contending that Pennsylvania's method of school funding is broken, lawyers representing a group of parents, school districts, and statewide associations are taking their case to the state's high court, they said in court papers filed Wednesday. Commonwealth Court judges in April tossed a lawsuit filed by the William Penn School District, Philadelphia parents, and others, ruling that education funding was a matter for the legislature and not the courts to decide. During oral arguments, lawyers arguing for the state said that Pennsylvania was meeting its constitutional obligation merely by keeping schools open.
May 21, 2015 |
Philadelphia Judge Kevin Dougherty and Anne Covey, from Bucks County, were among six candidates who won the right Tuesday to vie for three open seats on the state Supreme Court. "I'd like to believe that my message of being the advocate for the marginalized, the at risk, the working poor . . . " Dougherty said Tuesday night, "resonated throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. " Along with Dougherty, the Democratic nominees for the high court are Allegheny County's David Wecht and Christine Donohue, both Superior Court judges.
May 7, 2015
TODAY, LET'S think about possibility. Specifically, the possibility our state Supreme Court upholds the Constitution more often than when the mood strikes it to do so. I mention this because of a record three vacancies on the seven-member court to be filled by election this year, and because, you know, one can always hope. Let's concede that law can be a malleable thing, subject to circumstance and politics. In this state it's massaged into various shapes, sometimes avoiding constitutional dictates.