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Fiore v. White

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 21442
Nos. 97-3288, 149 F.3d 221/(3d Cir., 07/21/1998)

The court holds that the U.S. Constitution does not mandate retroactive application of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to a waste disposal company owner who was convicted under state law for operating a hazardous waste facility without a permit. The waste facility operator and a co-defendant employee were convicted for violating the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act on the theory that the facility's monitoring system was so altered that it significantly departed from the issued permit. Although the operator exhausted his direct appeals, the employee was successful in overturning his conviction because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the employee could not be convicted of operating the facility without a permit since the facility had a permit.

The court first holds that the Due Process Clause does not require a retroactive application of the employee's case. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the federal constitution has no voice on the subject of retroactivity. In addition, state courts are under no constitutional obligation to apply their own criminal decisions retroactively. Further, this court has refused to require application of new state decisions in habeas proceedings. The court next holds that the Equal Protection Clause does not require the employee's case to be retroactively applied. Although the Supreme Court has recognized that the principle of treating similarly situated defendants the same should be considered in shaping federal retroactivity rules, the Court has never tied the application of this principle to the Equal Protection Clause. Because neither the Due Process nor Equal Protection Clauses mandate retroactive application to this case, the court reverses the lower court's grant of a writ of habeas corpus.

Counsel for Appellee
Harold Gondelman
Plowman, Siegel & Lewis
The Grant Bldg.
310 Grant St., 2d Fl., Pittsburgh PA 15219
(412) 471-8521

Counsel for Appellants
Andrea F. McKenna, Sr. Deputy Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
Strawberry Sq., 15th Fl., Harrisburg PA 17120
(717) 787-3391

Before Stapleton and Shadur,* JJ.