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 |
When the landmark Mount Laurel housing ruling was handed down 40 years ago, the three Camden lawyers who had argued the novel discrimination case had to retrieve the written opinion to see what the New Jersey Supreme Court had decided. No one had called with congratulations, and there was no Internet to offer immediate access or reaction. "We sat on the loading dock" of the warehouse where their office was, "with our legs hanging over the edge, and Carl read it and said, 'We won!
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.
April 29, 2015 |
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.
April 19, 2015 |
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.