Sunday, December 5, 2010

Unreported Cases Become Persuasive in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court

I don't get excited about changes to courts' internal operating procedures very often, but I think this one's pretty exciting! Effective January 1, 2011, unreported cases will carry persuasive value in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania (an intermediate appellate court). The new Internal Operating Procedure (IOP) states:
§ 414. Citing Judicial Opinions
An unreported opinion of this court may be cited and relied upon when it is relevant under the doctrine of law of the case, res judicata or collateral estoppel. Parties may also cite an unreported panel decision of this court issued after January 15, 2008, for its persuasive value, but not as binding precedent. A single-judge opinion of this court, even if reported, shall be cited only for its persuasive value, not as a binding precedent.
Previously, parties were not permitted to cite unreported opinions except as they pertained to law of the case, res judicata or collateral estoppel.

I have always felt that unpublished cases carry some value, or at least provide some insight into how a Court has addressed an issue. There are compelling counterarguments, especially that the opinions were never intended to be relied upon. I still think the unreported cases are helpful if considered only as information about previous applications of the law and not binding precedent.

This is just one of many amendments to the Court's IOPs - See the Court's memorandum Re: Amendment to Commonwealth Court Internal Operating Procedures 414, 211, 123, 126, 201, 221, 223, 242, 243, 291, 311, 321, 331 and 442.

Posted by Philip Miles, an employment lawyer with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania.