Friday, August 25, 2006

appeal - late appeal - nunc pro tunc

City of Philadelphia v. Tirrill - Commonwealth Court - August 23, 2006

http://www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/CWealth/out/78CD06_8-23-06.pdf

This case is about a potbellied pig. It is also about filing an appeal nunc pro tunc (NPT). The city filed a complaint against Occupant for having a farm animal - a Vietnamese potbellied pig - in his residence, contrary to the city health code. The trial court found that the pig was a "farm animal" and entered an order in November 2005. The Court sua sponte dismissed Occupant's appeal, because it was not filed until 36 days after the court order -- beyond the 30-day appeal period.

Occupant filed a leave to appeal NPT, 29 days after the court's dismissal order. Commonwealth Court affirmed in a 6-1 decision. Noting the Occupant did not offer any explanation about the 29-day delay in filing his NPT application, the court dismissed the appeal, since the application for relief was not filed promptly, within a reasonable time, once he knew of the need to take action.

"[A]ppeal periods are jurisdictional and may not be extended as a matter of grace or mere indulgence; othewise there would benon finality to judicial action….[T]he attractiveness of an argument on the merits is of no moment because the tribunal is without power to grant the requested relief" even with the appeal is filed one day late.

"Under extraordinary circumstances, however, a court may extend the appeal period by granting equitable relief in the form of a nunc pro tunc or 'now for then' appeal." This can happen where a) there has been fraud; b) there has been a breakdown in the court's operations; or c) non-negligent circumstances relating to either the appellant or his attorney caused the briefly untimely appeal.

In the latter instance, there is generally a due process requirement for the court to conduct an evidentiary hearing to allow the appellant an opportunity to prove the existence of those circumstances. Here the court noted that it was "troubling" that the Occupant did not ask for a hearing and also that "this Court did not offer them an opportunity to make a record supporting their claims." The court said, however, that a hearing was not necessary because Occupant "failed to file a prompt application for relief."

The dissent would have granted Occupant a hearing to offter an explanation for the delay in asking for NPT relief, since the court did not mention this issue in its order directing en banc argument in the case.

domestic relations - notice - incarcerated persons

http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-34/1668.html

The amended official note to Rule 1930.4 (effective immediately) says that "service upon an incarcerated person in a domestic relations action must also include notice of any hearing in such action, and specific notice of the incarcerated individual's right to apply to the court for a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum to enable him or her to participate in the hearing. The writ is available where an incarcerated individual wishes to testify as provided by statute or rule, as well as where the individual's testimony is sought by another. Vanaman v. Cowgill, 363 Pa. Super. 602, 526 A.2d 1226 (1987). See 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4342(j) and Rule 1930.3. In determining whether a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum should be issued, a court must weigh the factors set forth in Salemo v. Salemo, 381 Pa. Super. 632, 554 A.2d 563 (1989)."

Pennsylvania Bulletin of August 26, 2006

http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-34/index.html

courts - rules - custody, divorce, support - effective immediately
http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-34/1668.html
NB - The amended official note to Rule 1930.4 says that "service upon an incarcerated person in a domestic relations action must also include notice of any hearing in such action, and specific notice of the incarcerated individual's right to apply to the court for a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum to enable him or her to participate in the hearing. The writ is available where an incarcerated individual wishes to testify as provided by statute or rule, as well as where the individual's testimony is sought by another. Vanaman v. Cowgill, 363 Pa. Super. 602, 526 A.2d 1226 (1987). See 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 4342(j) and Rule 1930.3. In determining whether a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum should be issued, a court must weigh the factors set forth in Salemo v. Salemo, 381 Pa. Super. 632, 554 A.2d 563 (1989)."

courts - local rules
Beaver - electronic filing - http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-34/1669.html
Carbon - arbbitration http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-34/1672.html
Lackawanna - domestic cases http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-34/1674.html
Susquehanna - arbitration - http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-34/1679.html

welfare - disproportionate share payments - high MA hospitals
http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol36/36-34/1696.html

custody - grandparents' rights

Hiller v. Fausey - Pennsylvania Supreme Court - August 22, 2006

majority - http://www.aopc.org/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-53-2005mo.pdf
concurrence - http://www.aopc.org/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-53-2005co.pdf
dissent - http://www.aopc.org/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-53-2005do.pdf

In a 6-1 decision, the Supreme Court denied a due process challenge to the constitutionality of the state statute, 23 Pa. C.S. 5311, governing partial custody or visitation to grandparents upon the death of the grandparent's child, i.e., the grandchild's parent. The statute gives a court the power to grant reasonable partial custody or visitation where granting custody would be in the child's best interest and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship.

Over the objection of the father, the trial court granted partial custody (one weekend per month and one week in the summer) to maternal grandmother (MGM) of an 8 y/o boy who had had a close and loving relationship with the MGM. The trial court determined that, absent a court order, the father would not provide the MGM any opportunity to see the child, with whom she'd been closely involved, especially during the last two year's of his mother's illness. The court found that the child and MGM "showed a great deal of affection toward one another and shared a very close relationship."

Applying the decision in Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), the trial and appellate courts found that the MGM had rebutted the presumption that father's decision to strictly limit MGM's contact would be in the child's best interest and that such contact would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. Both Superior Court and the Supreme Court noted that the Pennsylvania statute was "significantly narrower" than the Washington statute, termed "breathtakingly broad" by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state supreme court applied a strict scrutiny analysis, given the fundamental nature of a parent's right to make decisions about one's children, but held that the infringement allowed under sec. 5311 was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest - protecting the health and emotional welfare of children under its parens patriae powers. Stating that such a benefit does not always accrue with contact by grandparents, the court refused to close its mind "to the possibility that in some instances a court may overturn even the [presumptively correct] decisions of a fit parent to exclude a grandparent from a grandchild's life, especially where the grandparent's child is deceased and the grandparent relationship is longstanding and significant to the grandchild."

The court refused to require grandparents to prove that not granting them partial custody would harm the child, saying that such a standard "would set the bar too high." The court said that due process demanded only what the statute required -- a finding that contact with the grandparent would be in the child's best interest and not significantly interfere in the parent-child relationship, even given of the "special weight" given to a parent's presumptively correct decision about custody.

The concurring justice urged "even greater forward movement" toward the recognition of the rights of children in custody cases and said that "it is time to regard the best interest of the child as a fundamental and momentous right," urging the Court "to provide some guidance toward ascertaining a child's fundamental best interests."

The dissent said that grandparents should have to prove that lack of contact with them would cause harm to the child.

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