Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds Dauphin County and Commonwealth Court in Notary defect case

Judge gavel with Justice lawyers

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld the trial court decision of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas. The case was handled at all levels by Attorney Timothy P. Brennan

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld the trial court decision of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas. Attorney Timothy P. Brennan was the trial attorney and handled the appeals to both the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court and Pennsylvania Supreme Court.


HARRISBURG- Alan Kennedy-Shaffer will have to wait a few more days to find out if his name will remain on the primary ballot for a seat on the Harrisburg City Council.

A court hearing to decide the matter Friday ended after nearly two hours without a verdict.

Dauphin County Judge Scott Arthur Evans said he wanted to give Kennedy-Shaffer’s attorney time to summarize his legal arguments in a written motion. The plaintiff’s counsel presented a written motion in court Friday morning.

Ron Clever, Kennedy-Shaffer’s attorney, agreed to submit his motion by 8 a.m. Monday.

With both motions in hand, Evans could decide the case Monday, or schedule additional oral arguments on Wednesday and decide then.

Friday’s hearing stemmed from two petition challenges intended to knock Kennedy-Shaffer off the ballot. The challenges were filed by Jan Prosseda, and David L. Smith, both of Harrisburg.

The challenges contained nearly identical legal arguments and questioned the validity of Kennedy-Shaffer’s nominating signatures because he notarized most of the petitions himself. Each candidate is required to collect the signatures of at least 100 registered voters from their party.

Specifically, Kennedy-Shaffer notarized the signatures of the people who circulated his nominating petitions.

Smith’s challenge was withdrawn on Friday, so the hearing pertained only to the one filed by Prosseda, who did not attend the hearing.

His attorney, Tim Brennan, argued that Kennedy-Shaffer knew, or should have known, that he could not notarize his own petitions. Brennan said Kennedy-Shaffer even asked about a candidate notarizing his own petitions at an educational meeting in February led by Jerry Feaser, Dauphin County’s elections director.

Feaser testified Friday that he advised people at the meeting against a candidate notarizing his own petitions for “public relations” reasons, not legal reasons, because he is not a lawyer and not familiar with the state’s notary public law.

Brennan said Kennedy-Shaffer had a direct interest in the petitions and therefore could not notarize them, under the state’s notary public law. He said the candidate didn’t show good faith or due diligence.

“You can’t cover up your eyes and pretend you didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.

Kennedy-Shaffer testified that he understood Feaser’s comments to reaffirm what he already knew, which was that a notary could not notarize his own signature. Kennedy-Shaffer said he thought it was acceptable to witness the signatures of his petition circulators on petitions that did not contain his nominating signature.

Clever, Kennedy-Smith’s attorney, argued that even if Kennedy-Shaffer violated the state’s notary public law, that wasn’t the issue before the court.

“If it’s a violation of the state notary law,” Clever said. “It’s not a violation of the election code.”

Even if the judge determines the notarizations are flawed, the petitions can be amended, Clever said, adding that at least 20 precedent-setting cases prove the statute is intended to allow amendments.

In fact, Clever said, Evans ruled in recent days in favor of Middletown council member who had a district judge notarize his petitions. A challenger said the judge was not a legal notary, but Evans concluded a district judge “can in fact notarize,” and even if he could not, that “we find that this is amendable.”