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COMMONWEALTH v. PARENTE (03/26/58)

March 26, 1958

COMMONWEALTH
v.
PARENTE, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 160, Jan. T., 1958, from judgment of Superior Court, Oct. T., 1957, No. 180, affirming judgment of Court of Quarter Sessions of Northampton County, April T., 1956, No. 101, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Richard Parente. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Everett Kent, for appellant.

Robert Ungerleider, First Assistant District Attorney, with him Edward G. Ruyak, District Attorney, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno, Jones and Cohen, JJ.

[ 392 Pa. Page 49]

OPINION PER CURIAM

The judgment of the Superior Court is affirmed on the opinion of Judge WOODSIDE, 184 Pa. Superior Ct. 125.

ING OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO:

There was a time when a lawyer - any lawyer - was universally referred to with veneration, approached with awe, treated with defence, and held high in the estimate of the entire community in which he resided and practised his noble profession. Now he is frequently parodied in books, burlesqued on the stage, caricatured in stories, and regarded lightly in programs of popular entertainment. I am happy to observe, however, that, despite this process of underestimation, the magnificent part played by the lawyer in the history

[ 392 Pa. Page 50]

    of civilization and progress has been so formidable that he can still command attention and respect wherever he appears - except in some courtrooms.

There are some courts where the lawyer is regarded with a suspicious eye as if he were an interloper intent on deceiving the judge, hoodwinking the jury, and possibly prepared to walk away with some of the evidence if not carefully watched. I have reviewed records of trials where the lawyer, while conscientiously doing his duty in ably and honestly representing his client, was scolded by the judge, lampooned by the judge, screamed at by the judge, and all but eaten up by the judge in moments of Olympian wrath.

In some of these instances the judge's action was excused by this Court on the basis that a judge's authority in the courtroom must be upheld. I believe that whatever a judge does which represents authority should indeed be supported by the appellate courts, but when a judge departs from a position of reflective impartiality and dominates the courtroom tyrannically, his actions should come under the serious scrutiny of this Court, especially if they involve a belittling of attorneys respectfully trying before him. A lawyer in the courtroom is as much entitled to courtesy from the bench as the bench is entitled to courtesy from the lawyer.

I do not mean even remotely to suggest that the learned Trial Judge in the case at bar did not observe all the amenities which one expects from judicial position and that he did not treat the lawyers in this case with the maximum of courtesy and politeness. I do say, however, that he disparaged the attorney's function when he said to the jury: "You, as members of the jury, are the sole judges of all of the facts of the case ...


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