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Pa Superior Court – Why so many unpublished opinions?

Posted in Pennsylvania Superior Court, Trial Practice

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            On a daily basis the Pennsylvania Superior Court issues opinions. Copies of the opinions are available on the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania Website.  The question is why are so many of them marked “unpublished”? 

            A review of the opinions issued in the last week of September reveals that there were over 100 decision issued and of those decisions only 6 were published or reported? The remaining 94 were unpublished or unreported.   

            Pursuant to Superior Court Operating Procedures (“IOP”) 65.37, with limited exceptions, a party is prohibited from citing or relying upon an unpublished Superior Court Opinion. I raise the question again. So why are so many Pa Superior Court decisions marked “unpublished”? Are they so fact specific? Are the opinions not well written or well-reasoned? I reviewed them and I say not! In fact a comparison of those that are marked “published” as compared to those that are marked “unpublished” shows that there if very little, if any, difference between the cases.

            The same IOP rule 65.37 permits a party to file a Motion to have the opinion published.    Our appellate court decisions guide us in the practice of law. If we cannot cite to those decisions then we lose the ongoing insight from our courts. So next time you receive an “unpublished” opinion, please file a Motion with the Court to publish the decision. Some day you might be wanting to cite to a case and had wondered why Counsel on appeal failed to file such a Motion.