A judge's gavelDomestic violence is a very serious and sensitive problem. Receiving threatening text messages or calls, physical abuse to the body, or showing up to your house unannounced and uninvited and making threats are all circumstances that may make someone consider filing for a PFA Order.  If you find yourself in need of protection against domestic violence, the Protection from Abuse process provides a way to obtain protection from your abuser.

I have represented plaintiffs and defendants in PFA matters, and I understand the stress that comes along with obtaining or defending a PFA Order and how serious PFA matters should be handled. Whether you are filing a PFA against someone else or have had one filed against you, it is important to understand what a PFA is and how the PFA system works so that you can be prepared.

What is a PFA?

Many times we hear a protection from abuse (“PFA”) order incorrectly referred to as a “restraining order.” In Pennsylvania, it is a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order, not a restraining order that is issued by the court to protect victims of domestic violence, and, in some cases, their children, from their abuser.

A PFA Order is a civil order that protects a person and/or their minor children from domestic abuse by their abuser.   A PFA Order will do several things to protect the victim:

  • require an abuser to abide by certain requirements, such as refraining from being in the presence of the victim(s);
  • prevent an abuser from stalking, harassing, threatening, abusing, or attempting to use physical force;
  • and prevent an abuser from contacting the victim(s) or third parties to relay or get in contact with the victim(s) protected under the PFA Order.

A PFA Order also may evict the abuser from a shared residence, may prohibit the abuser from possessing any firearms, and may award temporary physical custody of the parties’ children to the victim.

Who can a PFA Order be issued against?

The Pennsylvania PFA Act sets forth specific rules on who a victim of domestic violence can file a PFA against.

Continue Reading What is a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order?

Many condominium and homeowners’ associations worry about people who are registered as sex offenders under the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), usually referred to as “Megan’s Law.” Many associations I work with have considered a range of ideas, from not allowing Megan’s Law registrants to use the community pool all the way to not allowing Megan’s Law registrants to own or rent units in the community. Up until now, there has not been much legal guidance on what an association can and cannot do. A recent case, Lake Naomi Club, Inc. v. Rosado, is the first Pennsylvania case to address some of these questions.

What is Megan’s Law?

Megan’s Law requires people who are convicted of certain sexual crimes to register with the Pennsylvania State Police. Registration may include information on where the person lives and works, photos and physical descriptions of the person, and descriptions of the crime that triggered the registration. Depending on the “Tier” of the sexual offense, a person could be required to register on the Megan’s Law site for 10, 15 or 25 years, or for life.

Some of the worst offenders – defined as “Sexually Violent Predators” – trigger a community notification process. For these registrants, the police will provide notification to anyone who lives or works within 250 feet of the registrant’s home, or to the 25 closest residences. They also provide notice to local school districts, day cares and preschools.

Megan’s Law does not say where registrants can or cannot live or work. Other than notification for Sexually Violent Predators, Megan’s Law does not require the police to tell anyone when a registrant moves into the community. People can search for sexual offenders or request notifications through the State Police.

The Lake Naomi case.

Lake Naomi HOA amended its Declaration to say that no registered Tier III sex offender can reside in any home within the Community. The amendment was approved by over 70% of the Unit Owners. Mr. Rosado owned a home in Lake Naomi when the amendment was passed. The Association sued Rosado to keep him from living in his home.

The Commonwealth Court decided that the Association could not prohibit Megan’s Law registrants from living in the Community. The Court said that Megan’s Law and the Parole Board establish the statewide public policy that regulates where Megan’s Law registrants may live. No condominium or homeowners’ association is allowed to restrict where sex offenders can or cannot live.
Continue Reading Associations Cannot Ban Sex Offenders from Community

Mark your calendars for the Lancaster County Extraordinary Give, occurring this week on Friday, November 18th.  Russell, Krafft & Gruber is thrilled to participate in the #Extragive as a Commonwealth Court Sponsor of the Lancaster Law Foundation, one of the numerous nonprofits fundraising during the event.

The Lancaster Law Foundation (formerly known as the Lancaster Bar Association Foundation) is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Lancaster County residents by promoting equal access to justice through philanthropy, education, and service.  The Foundation funds public interest law projects, coordinates with local attorneys in delivering pro bono service, and educates the public on civic and legal issues.

In 2022 the Foundation, as part of the Community Grants Program, granted $84,000 to local nonprofits making a difference in our community.  The Foundation also spent about $4,000 to create two new comfort rooms at the Lancaster County Courthouse.  These rooms are intended to ease anxiety for children who must testify in court in custody and protection from abuse hearings.  We at Russell, Krafft & Gruber are proud to have two attorneys serve on the Lancaster Law Foundation board, Julia G. Vanasse, Esq. and Nichole M. Baer, Esq.
Continue Reading #ExtraGive and Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP

November is National Adoption Month and over the years, Lancaster County Orphan’s Court Judges have celebrated it with balloons and LOTS of adoption finalizations on a single day. The tradition was begun by the Honorable Judge Jay J. Hoberg but was suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19. This year, with the help of

As a litigation attorney, I meet with many clients seeking advice because their new home construction or renovation project was done poorly. Whether these homeowners are dealing with big or small construction companies, the same problems arise when it comes to construction defects. Often, the contractor’s work was subpar, the homeowner spent thousands of dollars

Pennsylvania businesses and taxpayers, beware. There is a new scam around.  On July 14, 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue issued a press release warning business owners that fraudulent letters are being delivered by U.S. Mail.

These letters impersonating the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue demand that the taxpayers turn over their tax and accounting records. They allege that there is a tax investigation of your entity by the “State Revenue and Cash Disbursements Unit,” who will be imposing penalties if you do not comply “immediately.”

Continue Reading Pennsylvania Businesses: Beware Fraudulent Government Notices

For many years, Pennsylvania has been one of the few states that did not recognize like-kind exchanges (also known as 1031 exchanges or land swaps).  Now, with the passing of Act 53 of 2022 by Governor Wolf, Pennsylvania finally has adopted 1031 exchanges. This change may lower your tax burden on real estate transactions and even encourage more investment in the state.

What is a Like-Kind Exchange?

A like-kind exchange is a strategy under the Internal Revenue Code to exchange property of the “same nature, character, or class” without paying federal income tax. The type of property usually doesn’t matter as all real estate is considered like-kind to each other so long as it’s located in the United States of America. For example, an investor may want to sell her residential rental to purchase an apartment building or an office building.

Continue Reading Like-Kind Exchanges Better in Pennsylvania

Mark Twain was right – no one is making any new land.  He probably had no idea there would be a shortage of developable land around the historically rural Lancaster County.  Two recent programs of the Lancaster County Commercial and Industrial Real Estate Council (Lancaster C&I) highlighted this problem and showed one possible solution to the shortage of available developable land: changing how you use the land you already have.

Continue Reading Leveraging Our Land: Promote Innovation, not Acquisition Says Lancaster C&I

With the headlines coming out of the United States Supreme Court, I thought this would be a good time to write about the different courts that make up the American judicial system and how they work together. Let this be the start of a new blog series I’m calling Capturing the Courts, where I will discuss the different levels of state and federal courts and how cases work through each of the various court systems.

For this post, I will delve into the US Supreme Court (“the Court”) but will follow this up with a general overview of how the state and federal courts work together before digging into each specifically.

What is the US Supreme Court?

The United States Supreme Court was established by Article III of the United States Constitution to act as the highest court in the United States.

Continue Reading Capturing the Courts: The US Supreme Court