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TRIBUNE REVIEW PUBL. CO. v. THOMAS

August 6, 1957

The TRIBUNE REVIEW PUBLISHING COMPANY, a corporation, David W. Mack, Robert Purdy, William Block, Andrew Bernhard, Vince Johnson, James G. Klingensmith and Don Bindyke, Plaintiffs, and P G Publishing Company, a corporation, Intervening Plaintiff,
v.
Howard Bud THOMAS, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY

Said rule of court now being attacked as violative of the Constitution of the United States, was to govern and control all persons in the same manner in the administration of the affairs and business of said County trial court.

 The court rule was adopted on the eve of the trial of one John Wesley Wable, the so-called phantom killer of the turnpike. The killings on the turnpike had instilled terror into the minds of the people, and the apprehension of Wable in New Mexico, and his trial in Pennsylvania was the subject of widespread public interest.

 I am appreciative of the fact that representatives of the press would naturally desire photographs of any aspect of the trial that could possibly be secured since the case was of such great and widespread natural interest.

 When the action was originally presented and heard by the District Court, since the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had not considered the validity of the promulgated State Court rule, the matter was stayed in the District Court, pending a determination of the question under state law. I was of the opinion that the Federal District Court had jurisdiction but since the trial courts in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania secure their authority to act and administer their functions, inter alia, through rules promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, said court should first consider the question under state law. Tribune Review Publishing Co. v. Thomas, D.C. 120 F.Supp. 362.

 After staying the proceeding in this court, action was filed in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to determine the validity of said rule of court. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania dismissed the proceeding on the legal thesis that no justiciable issue existed, i.e., no violation of the rule was presented since no person had been deprived of a constitutional or other legal right. No person had violated the rule at the time action was instituted in the District Court, or Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. That to test the validity of a court rule or order, action must first be instituted in the court of its authorship. Tribune Review Publishing Co. Case, 379 Pa. 92, 113 A.2d 861.

 Subsequent to the decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania refusing an adjudication on the Westmoreland County Court Rule for the reason that no infraction or violation thereof had been committed, the rule in question was partially modified and amended by the Westmoreland County Court. Said amended rule was violated and was ultimately sustained by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States was refused. Mack v. Com. of Pennsylvania, 352 U.S. 1002, 77 S. Ct. 559, 1 L. Ed. 2d 547.

 Since the amended rule is the subject matter in question, no need exists to advert to the rule as originally adopted.

 The representatives of the press complied with the rule of court during the trial of the phantom killer. He was convicted and the date for imposition of sentence became a matter of public knowledge and interest. On the date fixed for imposition of sentence the plaintiffs, who represent the press in one manner or the other, deliberately and intentionally violated the amended court rule. *fn1"

 Appeal was taken to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania from said contempt judgment, and the Supreme Court upheld the fines imposed, vacated the jail sentences, sustained the validity of said court rule, and concluded said rule did not conflict with the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Constitution of the United States, and specifically did not deny to the offenders freedom of the press. Mack's Appeal, 386 Pa. 251, 126 A.2d 679.

 Application for writ of certiorari was made to the Supreme Court of the United States, which was denied. Mack v. Com. of Pennsylvania, 352 U.S. 1002, 77 S. Ct. 559, 1 L. Ed. 2d 547.

 Since the parties have secured a ruling from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and writ of certiorari was refused by the Supreme Court of the United States, I am satisfied the matter is now appropriately before this court for determination on the basis of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint and the Westmoreland County Court Rule as amended.

 It has been stipulated that all matters, exhibits and testimony presented at the original hearing together with the matters presented at final hearing shall be incorporated as the record of this proceeding.

 Full, complete and exhaustive consideration has been given to the complete record, all exhibits, briefs and arguments.

 The plaintiffs contend an injunction should be granted to restrain the enforcement of said rule *fn2" or in the alternative an order for judgment be issued, declaring said court rule invalid in that it denies freedom of the press in violation of the Constitution of the United States *fn3" and the Federal Civil Rights Statutes. *fn4"

 An evaluation of the court rule leads to the unquestioned conclusion that it was the intention of the court to restrict and bar --

 (a) The taking of pictures or photographs immediately preceding or during sessions of said court or recesses between sessions, in any of the court rooms, by any person or at any place in the court house within forty feet of the entrance to any court room.

 (b) The broadcasting or televising of court proceedings.

 (c) The taking of photographs of any party to a civil or criminal action, juror or witness, in the law library or in any offices or other room of the court house, except with the knowledge and consent of the person or persons photographed.

 (d) The photographing of any prisoner or inmate of the county jail in the jail or on his way to or from a session of court.

 Reduced to most simple expression, thesis that it is violative of the Constitution of the United States and the Federal Civil Rights Statutes for any State county court to promulgate a rule of court whereby representatives of the press or newspapers are denied the right to take photographs as they see fit anywhere in a court house, in that ...


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