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Karyn Rienzi Provides Analysis of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Session for Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN)

Karyn Dobroskey Rienzi recently served as one of two commentators for the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) to discuss the March 2022 session of oral arguments before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which originally aired on PCN on Friday, March 11th and Saturday, March 12th.

Ms. Rienzi is a Principal and Co-Chair of the firm's Appellate Department and focuses her practice exclusively on post-trial and appellate litigation in state and federal courts, as well as administrative agencies. 

Ms. Rienzi provided her insight on seven of the cases before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, including: 

  • Commonwealth v. Wilson: In her introduction of the case, Ms. Rienzi noted, "Deadlines in the appellate courts are very strict. Typically, parties have thirty days in which to file an appeal from a trial court order to the appellate court. Usually, if a party files a motion for reconsideration in the trial court, that motion does not stay the 30-day deadline."

    In this case, the defendant is appealing a Commonwealth Court decision that denied his appeal of an earlier ruling due to the untimeliness of his appeal. The defendant argues that the Court should relax the strict deadlines for filing an appeal under circumstances like this case - where there was a change in law after the trial court issued its original order.  
  • Commonwealth v. Lopez: Discussing this case, Ms. Rienzi commented that, "This is an unusual case in which the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agrees with the defendant and also argues that Rule 706(C) requires a trial court to consider a defendant’s ability to pay prior to imposing mandatory court costs at sentencing."

    The appeal in the case by the defendant of the inclusion of court costs in a judgment against him, alleges that the applicable Rule, 706(C), requires the trial court to consider the ability to pay prior to imposing costs, as well as that the mandatory costs violate the due process and equal protection rights of poorer parties, among other arguments. 
  • In re Estate of Jabbour: Ms. Rienzi introduced this case by noting it, "involves litigation taking place over the course of over seven years involving assets of an estate." In an intra-family dispute over the assets of a deceased family member, the Court was to decide if a widow could revoke her initial election against the will three years earlier.
  • Commonwealth v. Gamby: Ms. Rienzi noted that the case, "case involves the issue of whether certain conduct by the defendant was sufficient to support a criminal conviction for indecent assault."

    The trial court convicted a defendant of indecent assault and the Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s order. The defendant argues that the statute governing the crime of indecent assault requires contact with any “sexual or other intimate part” of the victim’s body and that the neck is not an “intimate” part of a person’s body. Instead, he argues that “intimate parts” should be defined only as those parts of the body that are the subject of sexual contact or relations. 
  • Clean Air Council v. DEP and Sunoco/ Gerhart v. DEP:  Ms, Rienzi commented that, "this appeal presents the issue of whether the Clean Streams Law authorizes the Environmental Hearing Board to order entities who are issued permits to pay attorney’s fees to third parties challenging permitting decisions of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection."
  • Bell v. Wilkinsburg School District: In a case involving a question of whether school districts must provide the same type of transportation to charter school students and school district students, various charter schools, and a student, sought to uphold their successful appeal in the Commonwealth Court after initially losing in the trial court.

    Ms. Rienzi commented, "Under the Charter School Law, school districts are required to provide free transportation to and from school to resident charter school students. In 2018, the Wilkinsburg School District began to issue free bus passes for Port Authority of Allegheny County buses to the charter school students rather than offering school buses provided by the School District, as they had previously done."
  • Synthes USA HQ v. Commonwealth: This case involves the issue of the proper method for calculating corporate taxes for tax years prior to 2014. A taxpayer, finding it had calculated tax using a different method than the Department of Revenue - resulting in a significant refund. The refund was initially denied, then reversed on appeal by the Commonwealth Court.

    In the discussion of the parties' positions, Ms. Rienzi noted, "the [Pennsylvania] Attorney General argues that the Commonwealth Court erred in finding that it overstepped its authority in taking a position contrary to the Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue first argues that since the Office of Attorney General was not a party in any proceedings before this case came before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it lacks standing to bring the appeal and, therefore, the appeal must be dismissed, among other arguments."

About PCN

PCN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit cable television network located in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania with bureaus in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The network has covered the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for 10 years and televises en banc sessions from the Court. 

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