Litigation Partner Richard Maurer Takes Pro Bono Case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
In a ruling issued on June 23, 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court accepted the appeal of a Philadelphia Traffic Court case, which litigation partner Richard Maurer has handled for the past three years, on a pro bono basis. The Supreme Court agrees to review (through a procedure known as granting allocatur) only about 5 percent of the cases brought to the Court annually, and the Traffic Court origin of this case made the chances of obtaining allocatur even more remote.
The case, Commonwealth v. Lynch, arises from John Lynch's conviction in 2007 of several serious traffic offenses involving jail time, which arose from incidents that occurred in late 2004. At the time of the incidents, a two-year statute of limitations applied to Pennsylvania traffic offenses, and at trial, the Commonwealth argued that the delays which resulted in the convictions occurring outside the two-year window were not a bar to prosecution on grounds that the delays were "directly attributable" to Mr. Lynch.
Throughout trial and on appeal, Maurer argued that the Commonwealth had not proven that litigation delays, most of them unexplained by court records, were "directly attributable" to Mr. Lynch. Maurer further urged that the "directly attributable" standard (articulated in a 1991 decision by the Superior Court called Commonwealth v. Quinn) lacked objective criteria for application, as a result of which defendants with an extensive record such as Mr. Lynch would face time-barred charges because of their reputation, as opposed to their actual conduct.
Although the Superior Court ruled against John Lynch, the Supreme Court will take a second look at whether his Traffic Court convictions were barred by the statute of limitations. If the Supreme Court rejects or refines the "directly attributable" standard, the outcome will likely encourage Traffic Court to resolve cases more promptly, and avoid the prospect of defendants such as Mr. Lynch serving jail time on charges which were time-barred at the time of conviction.
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