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NATIONAL LAND & INV. CO. v. SPECTER

October 7, 1969

NATIONAL LAND & INVESTMENT COMPANY et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Arlen SPECTER, Richard Sprague and Gilbert Stein, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WOOD

 WOOD, District Judge.

 This is an action for declaratory judgment and an injunction. The named plaintiffs assert jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343, 2201 and 2202 and contend that the defendants are depriving them of rights guaranteed by the First, Fourth, Sixth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 et seq. in connection with a state Grand Jury investigation of National Land. Specifically, it is alleged: that the defendants have acted under color of state law to chill the exercise of their rights of free speech and to support political candidates of their choice; that the plaintiffs are being denied the right of counsel and certain other procedural rights before the Grand Jury; and that because of the actions of the defendants in connection with the Grand Jury the plaintiffs are being deprived of their property rights without due process of law. We accepted jurisdiction, *fn1" and after a hearing and a review of the record we have concluded that the plaintiffs have not sustained their case and that their application for a preliminary injunction must be denied.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. Plaintiff, National Land and Development Company, is the developer of a project known as Centre Square, 1500 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Properties Investment Corporation and the individual plaintiffs are the owners of National Land and Development Company.

 2. Defendant Arlen Specter is the District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia. Defendant Richard Sprague is the First Assistant District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia.

 3. The District Attorney commenced an investigation of the plaintiffs' project during February of 1969 (N.T. 409-11). The investigation was prompted in part by the filing of a Complaint in Equity by a member of the City Planning Commission against plaintiffs and the Redevelopment Authority of Philadelphia alleging certain conflicts of interest, improprieties and irregularities in connection with the project (N.T. 33-5).

 5. On March 31, 1969, the District Attorney filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County a Petition requesting the convening of an investigating Grand Jury. The Petition requested that the Grand Jury "be specially charged to conduct an investigation of a wide assortment of wholly unrelated matters concerning which charges were made," including the 1500 Market Street Project. It was accompanied by an affidavit of the District Attorney which averred that several members of his office had been engaged in an investigation of the matters recited in the petition. (Ex. P-13)

 6. In support of the Petition, the District Attorney averred "The existence of widespread corruption, numerous violations of law, serious crimes and systematic criminal depredation by public officers * * *" (Ex. P-13 P2(a)) and that he had made "diligent search, inquiry and investigation" into the matters covered in the Petition, but was "in need of the assistance to be derived from a Grand Jury investigation" (Ex. P-13 P3) "because numerous individuals [had] failed and refused to provide information, testimony and documents upon the specific request of [the District Attorney]." (N.T. 298-9, Ex. P-13, P2(d)).

 7. The Petition further stated that the District Attorney had reliable and trustworthy information showing: that certain public officials had conspired to "give away without lawful justification property and assets of the City of Philadelphia" in connection with the 1500 Market Street project; that these officials and some whose identities had not been ascertained had improperly acted pursuant to their official positions to relieve National Land from several of its legal obligations for the improper purpose of gratuitously enriching its shareholders; that a member of the City Planning Commission had made several public charges concerning the 1500 Market Street project, including the charge that members of the Redevelopment Authority were guilty of unlawful conflicts of interest in regard to the project; that following these public charges, the member of the City Planning Commission and several others filed a suit in equity which related to the charges he had made concerning the 1500 Market Street project; that this suit had been abruptly settled and that the District Attorney despite diligent efforts had been unable to ascertain the circumstances and terms of the settlement or the circumstances surrounding the original transaction; and finally that the District Attorney had reliable and trustworthy information and evidence tending to show that certain public officials were part "of a system of similar or related improper acts whereby favored parties in interest * * * are being improperly enriched at the public's expense" and that the aid of the Grand Jury with its subpoena power was necessary to fully investigate and expose these unlawful and improper acts. (Ex. P-13, PP32-8)

 8. On April 2, 1967, the Common Pleas Court granted the Petition of the District Attorney for an investigating Grand Jury, and on April 8 the Grand Jury was charged as requested in the Petition by the Honorable Joseph Sloane, who had been designated by the Administrative Judge of Philadelphia County to preside over the Grand Jury.

 9. Since its convening, the Grand Jury has sat continuously except for a two week holiday and has heard a large number of witnesses and returned five presentments on various aspects of its investigation. (N.T. 410-11; 415-16)

 11. The plaintiffs sought review of the order convening the Grand Jury as well as several rulings of Judge Sloane in the appellate courts of Pennsylvania. (N.T. 230-1) On August 27, the plaintiffs filed a petition to terminate the investigation as to them. This motion was heard and denied by the presiding judge on September 5, 1969, and no appeal was taken from that action.

 12. The plaintiffs held a press conference on August 14, 1969 to state their views of the Grand Jury. They also on occasion have issued other press ...


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