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PENNSYLVANIA SOCIETY FOR PREVENTION CRUELTY TO ANIMALS v. BRAVO ENTERPRISES (01/18/68)

decided: January 18, 1968.

PENNSYLVANIA SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
v.
BRAVO ENTERPRISES, INC., APPELLANT



Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas No. 3 of Philadelphia County, March T., 1966, No. 2810, in case of Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Women's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. Bravo Enterprises, Inc. and Jimmy Toppi.

COUNSEL

Martin Greitzer, with him Gene Locks, B. Nathaniel Richter, and Greitzer & Locks, for appellant.

W. Charles Hogg, Jr., with him Richard H. Elliott, H. Thomas Felix, II, and Clark, Ladner, Fortenbaugh & Young, and Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel, for appellees.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno.

Author: Eagen

[ 428 Pa. Page 352]

This matter comes before the Court on the appeal of the defendant-appellant, Bravo Enterprises, Inc. (Bravo) from a final decree in equity issued by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County enjoining Bravo from conducting a performance known as "International Festival of Matadors and Bulls" (Festival), an exhibition of so-called "American style" bullfighting.

[ 428 Pa. Page 353]

Prior to April 14, 1966, Bravo advertised its intention to present its performance at the Philadelphia City Arena on April 14 through 17, 1966. Plaintiff Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals along with intervenor Women's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (S.P.C.A.) instituted this action to enjoin the performance alleging that such a performance would violate the precepts of the Act of June 24, 1939, P. L. 872 § 942, as amended, 18 P.S. § 4942 (Supp.). The complaint attempted to enjoin the performance without a hearing and based on affidavits alone. On April 12, 1966, the court below denied the motion for an ex parte injunction and fixed a hearing for April 15, 1966. One performance of the Festival was held on April 14, 1966, and the Chancellor, Judge Edward J. Griffiths, was present at the performance.

At the hearing the following morning, testimony was presented by S.P.C.A., and the court heard oral argument following which it entered a decree enjoining until final hearing the further performance of the Festival.

A final hearing was held on June 9, 1966, in which the evidence previously offered was incorporated and additional testimony was offered by both parties. Subsequently, the court below entered a decree nisi, permanently enjoining further performance of Bravo's Festival. Following this the court en banc approved the chancellor's findings and made the decree final. Bravo appeals.

The chancellor's findings, having been approved by the court en banc, have the effect of a verdict of a jury, and an appeal is limited to the consideration of whether such findings are supported by sufficient evidence and whether the court below abused its discretion or committed an error of law. Drummond v. Drummond, 414 Pa. 548, 552, 200 A.2d 887, 889 (1964);

[ 428 Pa. Page 354]

As the lower court en banc stated, "the . . . contention of . . . Bravo . . . is that the exhibition which it conducted did not constitute 'bullfighting' within the classical meaning of that term. This, however, is not the issue. Rather, the issue is whether the exhibition conducted by defendant constituted 'fighting', 'baiting' or 'otherwise cruelly ill-treating' bulls" as those terms are used in the statute.

It is our view that, whether or not the legislature envisioned the classic bullfight of the Spanish-speaking world when it framed the "fighting any bull" facet of the cruelty to animals statute, the "baiting" and "otherwise cruelly illtreating" aspects of the act are susceptible to a wide sphere of interpretation. We will not say that the court below abused its discretion or committed an error of law when it placed the Festival presented by Bravo within that statutory ambit.

Bravo next contends that the S.P.C.A. went into equity "with unclean hands," in that the S.P.C.A. is aware of and does nothing to prevent the activities of harness racing, rodeos, and circuses in Pennsylvania, which Bravo asserts are similar to its Festival. This contention is meritless.

First, the record is devoid of any evidence with respect to violations of the cruelty to animals statute, supra, at harness racing events, rodeos, or circuses, or of the S.P.C.A.'s knowledge of any violations at these events.

Secondly, even if such evidence were to be found in the record, the bar of unclean hands is applicable only where the wrongdoing of the plaintiff directly affects the equitable relationship subsisting between the parties and is directly connected with the subject matter at controversy. Goldberg v. Goldberg, 375 Pa. 78, 86, 99 A.2d 474, 478 (1953).

Bravo's third contention is that the court below sitting in equity improperly exercised jurisdiction in

[ 428 Pa. Page 356]

    this matter. This argument is grounded in the apparently case-made rule of law that equity will not act merely to enjoin the commission of a crime.

There have been two fairly distinct lines of cases in this Commonwealth dealing with what might be called the criminal arm of equitable jurisdiction. These cases have generally refused equity jurisdiction in the criminal area, but some notable and necessary exceptions have been carved out.

A. In one line of cases, one who has been charged with criminal acts has sought to enjoin a pending criminal trial from proceeding against him, usually asserting that he is innocent of the acts charged. Our cases hold that equity may not take jurisdiction in such a situation, on the ground that the law and sound public policy are better served by not permitting equity to control the prosecution, punishment and pardon of crimes.*fn2 Thus a potential defendant is precluded from having a chancellor adjudicate his guilt or innocence via a suit to enjoin his prosecution. See Douglas v. City of Jeanette, 319 U.S. 157 (1943); In re Sawyer, 124 U.S. 200 (1888); Cooper v. McDermott, 399 Pa. 160, 163 159 A.2d 486, 489 (1960); Meadville Park Theatre Corp. v. Mook, 337 Pa. 21, 24, 10 A.2d 437, 439 (1940); Long v. Metzger, 301 Pa. 449, 454-455, 152 A. 572, 573 (1930); Martin v. Baldy, 249 Pa. 253, 258-259, 94 A. 1091, 1093 (1915); M. & S. Ry. & L. Co. v. New Castle, 233 Pa. 413, 418, 82 A. 501, 502 (1912); Bryan v. City of Chester, 212 Pa. 259, 262, 61 A. 894, 895 (1905).

However, two general exceptions to this rule have been developed by our courts. Thus, equity will lie to restrain a pending criminal prosecution if it is alleged that: (1) The available legal remedy will cause a

[ 428 Pa. Page 357]

    multiplicity of suits situation to arise, Martin v. Baldy, supra, at 259, 94 A. at 1093; or, (2) The statute or ordinance in question is unconstitutional and void (either per se or as it applies to the party seeking the injunction), and its enforcement will cause the plaintiff irreparable loss to his property. Duquesne Light Co. v. Upper St. Clair, 377 Pa. 323, 339-341, 105 A.2d 287, 294-295 (1954); Adams v. New Kensington, 357 Pa. 557, 560-561, 55 A.2d 392, 394 (1947), and cases cited therein. In such cases the ground of equitable jurisdiction is the protection of property rights. Ibid.*fn3

B. In the second line of the equity-criminal law cases, the positions of the parties involved is the opposite of the first line. That is to say, in the second line of cases the potential criminal defendant is the one against whom the injunction is sought. It is this series of cases that parallels the instant situation. And these cases are the source of the oft-repeated maxim, noted above, that equity will not act merely to enjoin the commission of a crime.*fn4 See Everett v. Harron, 380 Pa. 123, 128-129, 110 ...


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