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Dennis Whitaker
Dennis Whitaker





J.D., Dickinson School of Law, 1988

B.S., The Pennsylvania State University, 1979


Dennis combines expertise in administrative law with extensive litigation, trial and appellate experience. He is the only person to have been appointed chief counsel to both Pennsylvania resource agencies, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. During his nearly 28 years of Commonwealth service, he litigated and argued complex cases at trial and on appeal before administrative tribunals and state and federal courts, prosecuted selected criminal matters as a Special Deputy Attorney General, and developed expertise in the defense of Section 1983 actions and in regulatory takings. He currently focuses on appellate and original jurisdiction practice in Pennsylvania and in selected federal courts, using his extensive knowledge of government and the courts to offer sound advice, creative solutions and effective strategies. Dennis has been lead counsel in many notable appeals and has authored amicus briefs before the Third Circuit, the Sixth Circuit, the Pennsylvania Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth Courts and the courts of common pleas.  With HMS Legal partner Kevin McKeon and others, he is a founder of and regular contributor to Pennsylvania Appellate Advocate, a blog that provides timely coverage and analysis of notable appellate decisions, allocatur grants, upcoming arguments, proposed and adopted rule changes, and other information of interest to lawyers, litigants, and others involved in or affected by issues presented in appeals in Pennsylvania’s appellate courts. Dennis is a past President of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and a past chair of Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Administrative Law Section, and frequently serves as a planner and faculty member in CLE programs related to administrative law and appellate practice. He was law clerk to Joseph T. Doyle, President Judge of the Commonwealth Court, as well as Commonwealth Court Judges Bonnie Leadbetter and Renee Cohn Jubelirer. He received his J.D. from the Dickinson School of Law and his B.S. from the Pennsylvania State University.

Publications and CLE Materials

  • Interdisciplinary Aspects of Seminole Tribe v. Florida: Environmental Law, 23 Ohio N.Univ.L. Rev. 1441 (1997)
  • CLE materials on: Administrative Warrants under the Fourth Amendment and the PA Constitution; Hearsay and the Legal Residuum Rule; Administrative Finality; Commonwealth Court Original Jurisdiction Practice; Practice Before Administrative Tribunals; Mining Law; Attorney’s Fees in Litigation with Government Agencies; Right to Know Law; Navigability and Commonwealth Submerged Lands; Preemption of Local Ordinances by State Statutes; Development of Agency Appeals Process and, Scope and Standard of Review/Deference on Appeal.

Notable Decisions

  • Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Assoc. v. Wolf, 2018 WL 2263549 (M.D. Pa. 2018) (granting preliminary and permanent injunctive relief barring taking of JUA funds by the Commonwealth)
  • AES Compassionate Care, et al. v. Levine, No. 233 M.D. 2018, (Pa. Cmwlth. 2018) (unreported) (granting preliminary injunctive relief enjoining implementation of medical marijuana research regulations where they fail to track the implementing act and unlawfully delegate duty to issue permits to private entities in violation of PA. Const. art. 1, §2,)
  • Adams Sanitation Co., Inc. v. Dep’t of Env. Prot., 715 A.2d 390 (Pa. 1998) (strict liability applies to landowners and occupiers under The Clean Streams Law)
  • Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs v. Hess, 297 F.3d 210 (3rd 2002) (grant of primacy to state over surface coal mining divests federal government of direct regulatory authority; federal court claims against state regulator for alleged failure to properly administer state program barred by Eleventh Amendment)
  • Westinghouse Elec. Corp. v. Dep’t of Env. Prot., 705 A.2d 1349 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1998) (first decision applying discovery rule to Clean Streams Law matters); 745 A.2d 1277 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2000) (affirming $3,200,000 civil penalty for Clean Streams Law violations)
  • Commonwealth, DEP, DCNR and PFBC v. Espy et al. 4 D&C 5th25 ( 2007); 4 D&C 5th 225 ( 2007) (declaration that portion of the Little Juniata River is navigable at law and the entire river is navigable in fact, and injunction against interfering with public access prevents privatization of the river by fishing club)
  • Huntley & Huntley, Inc. v. Borough of Oakmont, 964 A.2d 855 (Pa. 2009) (Amicus) (municipal zoning ordinance governing gas well location not preempted by Oil and Gas Act)
  • Citizens Coal Council v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 447 F.3d 879 (6th 2006) (Amicus) (EPA rule amending effluent limitations for coal remining was valid; establishment of effluent guidelines for remining did not violate Chevron)
  • Commonwealth v. Marks Contr., Ltd., 850 A.2d 873 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004) (DEP inspectors are “law enforcement officers” for purposes of initiating summary criminal prosecutions for violations of the Blasting Act, reversing common pleas court dismissal of charges)

Professional and Community Activities

  • Board of Directors, Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI) (2010-April 2018)
    • President (2017-April 2018) Vice President (2016-2017) Treasurer (2014-2016),
  • Introduced and provided summary of Commonwealth Court en banc arguments for Pennsylvania Cable Network broadcasts
  • PBA Member (Administrative Law Section; Appellate Advocacy, Statutory Law and Shale Energy Law Committees)
  • Pennsylvania Bar Foundation Life Fellow
  • Chair, Administrative Law Section Council (2007-2008)
  • Section Delegate to PBA House of Delegates (2008-2010)
  • Member, Environment and Energy Law Section Council (2011-2015)
  • Master Emeritus, James S. Bowman American Inn of Court (Administrative Law)
  • CLE planner and presenter for PBI, PBA, OGC and Bowman Inn of Courts
  • Volunteer Judge at National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition
  • Instructor for U.S. Office of Surface Mining’s Technical Training Program
  • Instructor-Northeast Environmental Enforcement Project Civil Attorney Training Program
  • Instructor for PA Minor Judiciary on Access and Entry Issues
  • Volunteer reader to print impaired for Harrisburg Area Radio Reading Service

Bar and Court Admissions

Supreme Court of the United States
Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Middle District of Pennsylvania
Western District of Pennsylvania
3rd Circuit Court of Appeals
6th Circuit Court of Appeals