Appeals from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1963, Nos. 2035 and 2036, in cases of Thomas J. Taylor and Edwin J. Taylor v. Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh; and Fred H. Stewart, individually and doing business as Geo. B. Stewart Co. v. Same.
Michael Hahalyak, with him Theodore L. Hazlett, Jr., H. L. Abrams and Richard W. Kelley, for appellant.
Daniel M. Berger, with him Morris M. Berger, and Berger & Berger, for appellees.
Leonard M. Mendelson, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Mr. Chief Justice Bell, Mr. Justice Jones, Mr. Justice Cohen and Mr. Justice Roberts concur in the result.
The lower court, in an eminent domain condemnation case, ordered a new trial because the verdict was inadequate, due, it asserted, to certain trial errors. The plaintiffs were owners of certain property in Pittsburgh, condemned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh.*fn*
In his charge to the jury the trial judge said: "By the same token, the obligation upon the attorneys for the defendant is most heavy because we are doing business here with what in the background I come from is a large amount of money." (Emphasis supplied.)
The reference to the judge's background was unfortunate. The trial judge who made this statement in no way suggests by his appearance that he is a denizen of the slums or that he was born in a log cabin. The Opinion-writer here can take judicial notice of the fact that, if anything, the trial judge's appearance, his sartorial impeccability and patrician's bearing could easily convey the impression that he was brought up in a well-to-do environment. Thus, if to this judge, the amounts discussed in the trial were "large" (in the sense of excessive) amounts of money, the jury could assume that they were being warned not to render a verdict for a "large" amount. The amounts mentioned by the trial judge shortly before his "background" reference were a maximum of $103,000 and a minimum of $66,500. If, as the jury interpreted the judge's remarks,
these amounts were "large," they could well have thought that they were being even liberal in allowing the Taylors $69,490, and the plaintiff Stewart $2,130.
In this respect it may be in order to note that a judge, in the interests of undeviating neutrality, should endeavor at all times, not to place himself in evidence as an exhibit for the purposes of exemplification, comparison, or historical background. A judge should present the facts to the jury with the clarity and distinctness of a stereopticon view, he should enlighten the jury on the law in as non-technical language as possible, and he should allow the wisdom of his studies, and the expanse of his knowledge and experience, to pour into the jury box as impartially as the sunlight breaking through the windows, inundating the courtroom with the glow of wholesome revelation of the truth, and nothing else.
The trial judge erred also when he told the jury that the redevelopment authority, in "handling public funds" had a "very heavy obligation," because "what public officials do is always wrong and never right." With this language he was in effect saying that the Authority was being coerced by the public not to spend too much money because the public would eventually be required to pay the verdict. The suggestion that taxpayers would have to dig down into their pockets to satisfy the jury's verdict was an inappropriate one because in essence it meant that the jurors themselves would have to open their wallets to help fill the bag being handed by them to the property owners. In the first place the ...