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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. GOODFELLOW v. RUNDLE. (11/10/64)

November 10, 1964

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. GOODFELLOW, APPELLANT,
v.
RUNDLE.



Appeal, No. 31, Jan. T., 1965, from order of Superior Court, October T., 1963, No. 340, affirming order of Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Miscellaneous No. 12114, 1963, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Thomas F. Goodfellow v. Alfred T. Rundle, Superintendent. Orders reversed and new trial ordered.

COUNSEL

Thomas F. Goodfellow, appellant, in propria persona.

Thomas A. Pitt, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, and A. Alfred Delduco, District Attorney, for appellee.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 415 Pa. Page 530]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS

Thomas Goodfellow, without counsel, was sentenced in 1959 to imprisonment for prison breach and larceny. The sentences followed pleas of guilty to both charges. In 1963, Goodfellow sought a writ of habeas corpus alleging that absence of counsel at the 1959 guilty pleas and sentencings deprived him of his liberty without due process of law. The court of common pleas denied the writ after argument, but without a hearing.*fn1 The denial was appealed to the Superior Court. That Court, believing the issues were of "vital importance to the Commonwealth," certified the matter to this Court under the appropriate statute.*fn2

Along with the certification, the Superior Court appended an opinion which sought to lay down broad guidelines for our courts in reviewing habeas corpus petitions grounded on lack of counsel.*fn3 203 Pa. Superior Ct. 419, 201 A.2d 615 (1964). Three of the judges

[ 415 Pa. Page 531]

    were at that time of the view that Gideon was not to be applied retroactively,*fn4 but assuming that it was and that it was to be applied to guilty pleas, petitioner, by alleging only that no counsel was offered to him, had not alleged sufficient facts to entitle him to a writ or to a hearing on the petition. These judges would have affirmed the denial of the writ. One of the judges did not join in this opinion, but he also relieved that the order below should be affirmed. The remaining three judges would have remanded the case for a hearing at which the relator would have the burden of establishing his indigency or other inability to procure counsel at the time of the guilty pleas.

The case, so certified, is now before us.*fn5 Although the objective of a guideline opinion for the assistance of trial courts may be generally commendable, that mission in this complex and developing area was not here achieved. This Court's recent decisions in Commonwealth ex rel. McCray v. Rundle, 415 Pa. 65, 202 A.2d 303 (1964), and Commonwealth ex rel. O'Lock v. Rundle, 415 Pa. 515, 204 A.2d 439 (1964), indicate that much of what was said in the guideline opinion filed in the Superior Court does not express the current permissible constitutional doctrines to be applied to habeas corpus proceedings. Our reading of Carnley

[ 415 Pa. Page 532]

    sentences imposed is absolutely devoid of any ...


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