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CATHCART v. CRUMLISH. (03/19/63)

March 19, 1963

CATHCART, APPELLANT,
v.
CRUMLISH.



Appeal, No. 415, Jan. T., 1962, from decree of Court of Common Pleas No. 6 of Philadelphia County, Sept. T., 1961, Nos. 3411 and 3412, in case of J. David Cathcart v. James C. Crumlish, Jr., District Attorney, and John T. Curtin v. Same. Decree vacated.

COUNSEL

Samuel Dash, with him Morton Witkin, and Witkin and Egan, and Dash and Levy, for appellants.

David Berger, City Solicitor, with him Levy Anderson, First Deputy City Solicitor, for appellee.

Before Bell, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'brien, JJ.

Author: Cohen

[ 410 Pa. Page 254]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE COHEN

In pursuance of an investigation he was conducting, the district attorney of Philadelphia issued subpoenas commanding appellants to appear at his office on November 27, 1961 to testify on certain matters then under investigation. These subpoenas were issued on the alleged authority of section 8-409 of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter. Appellants filed complaints in equity on November 22, 1961, seeking to enjoin the district attorney from requiring them to appear and testify.

[ 410 Pa. Page 255]

After hearing argument, the lower court dismissed appellants' complaint, holding, inter alia, that section 8-409 of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter empowered the district attorney to issue subpoenas. An appeal to this Court was then taken.

While this is not the typical case seeking to enjoin criminal proceedings, which the court have traditionally refused to entertain,*fn1 nevertheless this action has all the earmarks of an intrusion into law enforcement processes which should be looked upon with great circumspection. Despite the fact that litigants are not always sensitive to this problem, courts should be alert to question the invocation of equitable jurisdiction where its use might obstruct the functioning of the district attorney's office.

Even though appellee does not raise the question, as an appellate court we must take cognizance of the lack of equitable jurisdiction in the court below since section 8-409*fn2 of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter

[ 410 Pa. Page 256]

    prescribes a specific statutory procedure wherein the validity of subpoena issued under this section may be tested. See Stahl, Attorney General v. Insurance Company of North America, 408 Pa. 483, 486, 184 A.2d 568 (1962). This section provides for the district attorney to report any non-compliance to a common pleas court which shall promptly hear arguments on the validity of the subpoena. Under the Act of March 21, 1806, P.L. 558, 4 Sm.L. 326, 46 P.S. ยง 156, it has long been held in various contexts that where a remedy or method of procedure is provided by an act,*fn3 those procedures should be followed exclusively. See, e.g., Knup v. Philadelphia, 386 Pa. 350, 126 A.2d 399 (1956).*f ...


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