December 9, 2014 |
It's an unfortunate irony that the corruption cases against former Philadelphia traffic judges were thwarted by the sort of legal and factual nuances that hardly troubled the defendants. The federal judge and jurors who heard the case clearly believed, as a state Supreme Court report and federal prosecutors contended, that fixing tickets for the connected was standard practice in Traffic Court. For the same reason, the state legislature moved with uncharacteristic alacrity and bipartisanship to dismantle the court.
December 5, 2014 |
For three decades in West Philadelphia's Mantua neighborhood, nearly everyone knew the name Kermit Barron Gosnell. Long before he became infamous as an illegal abortionist sentenced to three life-in-prison terms, Gosnell's clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave. was the "urgent care" center of its day for the poor and uninsured. To the U.S. Supreme Court, however, Gosnell was just case 14-6672, one of more than 200 petitions seeking consideration. Last month, the court told Gosnell, "No. " In January, the 73-year-old prisoner filed an appeal of his guilty plea and sentence on federal charges that he sold prescriptions for dangerous narcotics, in what authorities call a "pill mill.
December 3, 2014 |
WASHINGTON - In a case that could further define the limits of free speech online, the Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in the appeal by an Allentown man who claimed First Amendment protection following his arrest for threatening on Facebook to kill his wife and an FBI agent. A U.S. District Court jury sitting in Philadelphia convicted Anthony Elonis in 2011 of violating a federal law barring threats over the Internet, mail, or telecommunications systems. Elonis claimed that his posts were a means of self-expression and that he was entitled to the same license employed by rap musicians using violent images in their recordings.
November 28, 2014 |
As his marriage began to crumble in 2010, and his job at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown hung in the balance, Anthony Elonis took to the Internet to vent his frustrations. He posted rap lyrics on Facebook in which he seemingly threatened to kill his wife, an FBI agent, and local police while also suggesting he might attack Dorney Park and even a local elementary school. He was soon arrested, tried, and convicted of making threats over the Internet, and was sentenced to 44 months in prison.
November 23, 2014 |
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, over the objections of its chief justice and another member, this week vacated an order suspending without pay a former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge who was acquitted by a federal jury of all charges in a ticket-fixing case. A similar order issued by the Court of Judicial Discipline remains in effect against Michael J. Sullivan, a South Philadelphia tavern owner and former ward leader who became administrative judge of Traffic Court. In September, Sullivan petitioned the high court to partially vacate the February 2013 order and award him back pay as well as pay until his term ends at the end of 2017.
November 1, 2014 |
IN CRISIS there is opportunity - this well-worn but still prescient political trope is on the minds of at least nine judges considering the three open seats on the state Supreme Court next year. The high court has seen more jabs and pummeling than jurisprudence lately, as Chief Justice Ron Castille maneuvered to oust Justice Seamus McCaffery . McCaffery retired Monday after Justice J. Michael Eakin accused him of making threats. Castille has to step down Dec. 31, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. And time is up next year for Justice Correale Stevens , appointed last year to finish the term of former Justice Joan Orie Melvin , who was convicted of using her staff to do political work.
October 29, 2014 |
COULD THE end of one Pennsylvania Supreme Court fracas set the docket for a new court tussle? Seamus McCaffery, a former Philadelphia police officer elected in 2007 to the state's highest court, retired yesterday, one week after his fellow justices suspended him for allegedly threatening to expose a colleague's racy and racist personal emails. The question now: Who replaces McCaffery and, just as important, when is that pick made? The state Constitution gives the governor the power to appoint a replacement, who must win the support of two-thirds of the state Senate's 50 members.
October 28, 2014
ISSUE | HIGH COURT WOES Switch to merit rules With a Supreme Court justice caught sending pornographic e-mail and now retiring after being suspended, Pennsylvanians might wonder how such a guy reached the state's highest court. It's simple: We elected him. Although most states moved away from elections to merit-based appointment for their appellate judges, ours has not. Why? Because politicians and special interest groups like it that way. They know most people don't really know the candidates in statewide judicial elections, and that makes it easy for the parties to control who gets to run and win. And the candidates themselves wind up having to solicit groups who will raise big money to finance their campaigns.
October 28, 2014 |
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery stepped down Monday, nearly a month after becoming entangled in a pornographic e-mail scandal that has toppled other state officials, and facing an ethics investigation that could have cost him his seat and pension. In a two-paragraph letter, the 64-year-old Philadelphia Democrat told Gov. Corbett that he was retiring after 40 years in public service, including six as a justice. "It has all been a great honor and privilege, which I deeply cherish," he wrote.