Special Litigation Section

  • The Special Litigation Section (“SLS”), which is staffed by a Chief Deputy Attorney General and one support person, handles complex state and federal litigation that involves or otherwise impacts on criminal prosecutions, including the activities of the statewide investigation grand juries. This includes federal habeas corpus and class actions filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 which challenge the constitutionality of criminal justice procedures, such as execution protocols, at both the trial and appellate levels. SLS also routinely reviews and, where appropriate, takes suitable steps to litigate, the issuance of compulsory process seeking production of OAG criminal investigative and administrative records, including grand jury materials, and/or testimony of Criminal Law Division (“CLD”) personnel, in both civil and criminal cases. It also aids in reviewing and responding to Right-to-Know requests affecting the CLD.

    The Section prepares amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs for filing in the United States and Pennsylvania Supreme Courts in important criminal cases. It also reviews amicus briefs prepared by other States in criminal cases before the Supreme Court of the United States which have been circulated by the National Association of Attorneys General (“NAAG”), and makes recommendations to the Attorney General about joining the same.

    The Section regularly provides assistance, occasionally in-depth support, to county prosecutors with respect to federal habeas corpus cases, most frequently involving capital sentences, and provides training for prosecuting attorneys and law enforcement officers. From time to time, at the direction of the Attorney General, First Deputy Attorney General or the Director of the CLD, the Section undertakes special projects designed to air or inform Pennsylvania’s prosecutors and others. Recently addressed topics include firearm pre-emption and Pennsylvania’s mandatory reporting statutes. As is topically appropriate, SLS also assists in the review and drafting of proposed legislation.