By: Kevin McKeon

Recently, the Superior Court made changes to its internal operating procedures that affect motions panel practice, use of laptops, tablets and phones by attendees and advocates at oral argument sessions, and reargument practice.  Although published in the October 14, 2017 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin (47 Pa. B. 6362), the changes became effective at the earlier dates of adoption.  The reargument practice amendments became effective September 12, 2017, and the other changes became effective June 14, 2017.   The text of the amendments can be accessed here.

The motions panel amendments make two changes. First, they permit two judges of a three judge motions panel to decide a motion if the third judge is unavailable and the remaining two judges agree.  If the remaining two judges disagree, they are required to request the President Judge to assign another judge to participate in deciding the motion.  Second, the amendments provide that if the motions panel denies a motion to quash, denial is without prejudice to presenting the issue to the merits panel by re-raising the issue by refiling the original motion or by including the issue in the merits brief.

The amendments concerning laptops, tablets and phones provide that: (a) attendees at Superior Court oral argument sessions may use these devices in the courtroom in a non-disruptive manner (with specific prohibitions on oral communications, recording and photography); and (b) oral advocates may use these devices for data, reading and reference purposes, again in a non-disruptive manner.

The amendments concerning reargument eliminate what had been a divergence between the Superior Court’s previous internal operating procedures and the Rules of Appellate Procedure, which treat petitions for reargument, rehearing and reconsideration the same under Chapter 25 petitions for reargument. Before the amendments, Superior Court distinguished between petitions for reargument and petitions for reconsideration, leading to confusion among practitioners.  We will dive more deeply into this aspect of the Superior Court’s Internal Operating Procedure change in a subsequent post.

About the Author:

Kevin McKeon, partner at Hawke, McKeon & Sniscak, LLP, represents a diverse array of clients before Pennsylvania state agencies, and state and federal appellate courts. A co-author of West’s Pennsylvania Appellate Practice and immediate past chair of the Pennsylvania Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee, Kevin uses his comprehensive knowledge of Pennsylvania appellate procedural rules to guide clients through complex appellate proceedings.