Appeal from order of County Court of Philadelphia, No. W.D. 41016, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Edmund R. Ruczynski and Renee Gunther Ruczynski v. Carl William Powers and Alice Marie Powers.
James J. McEldrew, for appellants.
Raymond L. McConemy, Jr., for appellees.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Mr. Justice Roberts concurs in the result. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Mr. Justice Jones joins in this dissenting opinion.
Renee Gunther fell from the path from which so many erring sisters down through the ages have slipped and, in consequence, an entirely innocent being is now in a court of law, a helpless chip on the bewildering ocean of litigation. It is the responsibility of the law to guide this human mite into a harbor of refuge, protection, care and assured future well-being.
In discharging its responsibility in this respect, the Court is being assisted by the advice, counsel, persuasion and entreaty of two parties, each sincerely convinced that it can provide the better harbor for the defenseless infant.
The County Court of Philadelphia decided that the physical, mental, spiritual and psychological welfare of the child will best be served by his remaining in the home of Carl William Powers and Alice Marie Powers where he now is. The natural mother of the child, with her husband, appealed to the Superior Court and urged that they be awarded the permanent custody of the baby. The Superior Court, with one Judge dissenting, affirmed the order of the county court. We granted an allocatur. In ordinary circumstances a court should not need to deliberate long to conclude that only injustice would attend a forcible separation between a mother and her child. But we do not have ordinary circumstances here.
Robert Anthony Gunther was born on May 20, 1960. Two and a half years later, his mother handed him over to Carl William Powers and his wife, Alice Marie Powers, executing at the time a formal consent to adoption. Five months later the mother requested the return of her child and the Powerses relinquished him to her, but, holding Robert only four months, the mother decided she could not keep him and, for reasons of her own, once more consigned him to the Powerses apparently with finality. The finality lasted four months and now the mother demanded once more the return of Robert as if he were on a merry-go-round and could be plucked away and returned to a wooden mechanically operated horse at any moment she desired while the hurdy-gurdy music of life played on.
By this time, however, the Powerses were satisfied that the carnival transferring to which Robert was being subjected was not conducive to his best interests and they refused to stop the merry-go-round for Renee Gunther's weather vane changes of mind. They accordingly held on to Robert and petitioned the County Court of Philadelphia for his adoption. The county court granted the petition but this Court reversed the
decree of adoption, directing the lower court, however, to ...