Duquesne Law Review


The doctrine of basic and fundamental error, as applied by Pennsylvania courts, had long been an exception to the general rule that only properly preserved issues could be entertained on appeal. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in its 1974 Dilliplaine decision fully and finally abrogated this doctrine. In the years following Dilliplaine, the Pennsylvania courts have not only followed the rule of strict issue preservation announced in the latter case, but have made the preservation requirements even more stringent. The author first explores the nature of the doctrine of basic and fundamental error as it existed prior to 1974, focusing on the lack of certainty as to the standard applied by the courts in deciding whether the doctrine should be invoked. Following this is a look at Dilliplaine itself and the court's rationale justifying the abrogation of the doctrine. The author then examines the progeny of the leading case, elucidating the new exacting preservation standards that these decisions demand. Finally, a few words are offered regarding the impact of these new standards on the individual attorney, his client, and the legal profession in general.

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