Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

DOJ is suing Pa.'s court system over addiction rules

Plus, judge reverses course after 'rare' PSU ruling.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
July 15, 2022
Drug policies, PSU files, key counties, Gab ads, legal limits, school safety, and Fetterman's troll train keeps on rolling. Good news: It's Friday! 

A case that could have major implications for criminal defendants experiencing opioid addiction is playing out in federal court between the U.S. Department of Justice and leaders of Pennsylvania's court system. 

Spotlight PA reports the DOJ sued the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and its administrative arm in February over policies in several county courts that banned or limited the use of life-saving addiction medicine.

The state Supreme Court wants the lawsuit dismissed, saying the entire court system is not responsible for the contested policies of individual members. The DOJ argues that Pennsylvania's constitution says otherwise.

Here's what you need to know about the case.

THE CONTEXT: The Department of Justice began investigating Pennsylvania's court system after receiving complaints about an opioid use disorder medication ban in Jefferson County in 2018.

The ban caused "significant harm" to at least two people, the agency wrote in a letter that was publicly released earlier this year.

The same letter alleged that such policies in Jefferson and Northumberland Counties violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers opioid use disorder. The letter identified six other counties that have or have had problematic policies for treatment court programs in place.

The Department of Justice urged the statewide court system to make several changes in February — and filed its federal lawsuit later that month when it wasn't satisfied with the court system's response.


"I would gladly take a lie detector test at any point to prove that I had no knowledge of [Loehmann's history] whatsoever."

—Tioga Mayor David Wilcox on the recent hiring of the cop who shot Tamir Rice in 2014; the officer and four Tioga officials have since resigned
Recognize this Pennsylvania beach? That's right, it's Presque Isle in Erie in a gorgeous shot from Natalie L. Send us your Pennsylvania photographs, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
ABOUT-FACE: After sealing a case at the request of Penn State University, a rare move that potentially violated the right to open courts guaranteed by the state and U.S. constitutions, a Centre County judge has reversed course and unsealed the records with some redactions, Spotlight PA reports. The case files in question include search warrants involving crime victims who attend the university.

BELLWETHER WATCH: Politico's list of "20 counties that will decide the 2022 midterms" includes two in Pennsylvania. The outlet is paying close attention to Lehigh County in the race to replace Allentown-based Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, and Luzerne County, where the toss-up race for Democratic U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright's seat could yield further electoral omens ahead of the 2024 presidential contest.

GAB CAMPAIGN: GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano spent $5,000 advertising on a social media platform that's been dubbed a safe haven for far-right extremists, WESA reports. The platform is called Gab and it was frequented by the man accused of killing 11 in a mass shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue. Mastriano's campaign didn't respond to an email from WESA seeking comment.

ADULT CHARGES: Billy Penn reports that a state law "built on the superpredator myth popular in the 1990s" has set the stage for several teens to be tried as adults in last month's fatal beating of 73-year-old James Lambert in Philadelphia. Other states require discretion. Richard Jones, 14, was the first to surrender to police in connection with Lambert's death. He's charged as an adult with third-degree murder.

CRISIS CASH: This year's state budget includes a $100 million first-time line item for in-school support of student mental health, the money coming with needs rising and relevant resources stretched thin. The AP reports the state's School Safety and Security Fund, established to physically harden school buildings after 2018's high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., will also net a $100 million infusion.
TROLL TALK: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman's trolling of his Republican rival Mehmet Oz has entered the "plane over the Jersey Shore" and "personal message from Snooki" phase.

TWEET STORM: The Inquirer reports state Rep. Austin Davis, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, says he regrets 11-year-old tweets that were posted when he was in college and infused with misogyny.

FUN AGE: Getting old isn't funny — or is it? A new documentary on comedians in their 80s features Philly fixture Natalie K. Levant, described by the director as "all sequin boots and F-bombs," per the New Yorker.

HEADS UP: Scam artists are impersonating the state's Department of Revenue and sending Pennsylvania business owners fraudulent letters in the mail that direct them to turn over their accounting records. 

STAR STUFF: Images from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope have been blowing minds all week, especially among Philly hockey fans.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.
*This week's theme: Wedding season

Yesterday's answer: Affiance

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan N.-Z., Craig W., Patricia M., Kim C., Barbara F., Susan D., Bette G., Mark O., Elaine C., Judith D., Lynne E., Don H., Beth T., John A., Ted W., Jude M., Nancy S., George S., Lex M., James B., Theresa T., Barbara O., Patricia A., Bill S., Dianne K., Mike B., Kimberly D., John H., and David W.
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Chip in to support local journalism.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
225 Market St., Suite 502A
Harrisburg, PA 17101

You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, a daily newsletter by Spotlight PA.

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.