Attorneys Challenge Chester County Decision; What Happens Now?

The Pennsylvania Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (PARSOL) has learned that attorneys for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (SCOPA) in the case Commonwealth v. Torsilieri.

The appeal docket number is 97 MAP 2022.

But didn’t SCOPA already send this for review?

That’s correct. In June 2020, SCOPA remanded the case back to the lower court for the development of the record on whether SORNA’s irrebuttable presumption that all registrants pose a high risk of sexually reoffending is constitutional.

So, the Commonwealth has taken this action despite already knowing that Chester County Court of Common Pleas Judge Allison Bell Royer’s 28-page opinion that stated Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law is unconstitutional will automatically be reviewed by SCOPA since they already remanded the case to the lower court!

More Stall Tactics

We see this as another stall tactic by the Commonwealth to keep SORNA in place. The Commonwealth will pull any legal maneuver they can to delay SCOPA’s ultimate decision, which could now take an additional two-or-more year to reach. 

Using legal tactics to delay a ruling that could strike down SORNA is a common practice across the country. Earlier this week, the prosecution in a U.S. Federal Court in California delayed a hearing for the sixth time for numerous reasons, including a prosecutor’s “scheduling conflict.” On September 12th, our colleagues at ACSOL announced the court would rule without oral arguments but is not required to stick to any timeline.

Why so long? 

Here’s the general breakdown of the appeals process if SCOPA approves the Commonwealth’s request to appeal: 

StepWhat happensTime Period
1Notice of Appeal Filed 
2SCOPA Grants / Denies Permission to Appeals (Stops Here if Denied)No Timeframe
3Appellant’s Given 30 Days to File their Brief 30 Days 
4Appellant’s First Request for Extension to File their Brief (Optional)30 Days
5Appellant’s Second Requests Second Extension to File their Brief (Optional)30 Days
6Appellee Files their Brief30 Days
7Appellee’s First Request for Extension to File their Brief (Optional)30 Days
8Appellee’s Second Request for Extension to File their Brief (Optional)30 Days
9Appellant’s Files their Reply Brief 30 Days
10Appellant’s First Request for Extension to File their Reply Brief30 Days
11Appellant’s Second Requests Second Extension to File their  Reply Brief30 Days
12Schedule Arguments (Optional- opinion can be made from the briefs filed)May 23, 2023
13Arguments Made 
14Awaiting OpinionNo Timeframe

UPDATE 4/15/2023: The Supreme Court of PA has scheduled the Arguments referenced in Step #12 above for May 23, 2023.

On top of all of this, there are many other motions that can be filed that the Commonwealth can use to intentionally slow proceedings.

Possible Outcomes

There are two foreseeable outcomes to this challenge:

  1. SCOPA could deny the appeal should they wish to uphold Judge Royer’s decision entirely;
  2. SCOPA could grant the appeal request and subsequently resume deliberations where they left off before remanding the case to the lower court.

PARSOL will keep everyone informed as new details emerge. To ensure you get all our updates, complete our membership form. Joining is free! 

Article By: Josiah

PARSOL Board Member John D. also contributed to this article.

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Written by 

Josiah Krammes is Board Chair of Pennsylvania Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws where he oversees Education, Public Awareness, and Legal Information/Analysis.

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