Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Dec. T., 1966, No. 741, in case of Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Radcliffe On The Delaware, Inc.
N. M. Atkinson, with him Leonard Zack, for appellant.
Raymond W. Midgett, Jr., with him Joseph V. Reaph, Jr., Roland E. Sykes, and Dechert, Price & Rhoads, and Harris & Sykes, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien.
This is an appeal from a judgment in an action of mortgage foreclosure in favor of Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company, the plaintiff-appellee (Phoenix) and against Radcliffe On The Delaware, Inc., the defendant-appellant (Radcliffe).
The principal error alleged by Radcliffe in its appeal is that it was ordered to trial without legal counsel or adequate time to prepare a trial strategy. The following events led up to trial: The foreclosure action was commenced December 2, 1966. Phoenix gave notice of its intention to certify the case to the trial list on September 15, 1967, after pleadings had closed on August 28, 1967. However, to allow Radcliffe to explore the possibility of refinancing or selling the mortgaged property, and to allow Radcliffe's attorney to take depositions, the case was not ordered upon the trial list.
On January 26, 1968, the law firm of Bowen & Valimont filed a petition seeking leave to withdraw as Radcliffe's attorneys, alleging that it had not been paid for services rendered in the past or for a retainer for future services. Leonard C. Hecht, an officer of appellant corporation, which is a family corporation comprised of Hecht and two sisters, wrote a letter to the court, dated February 4, 1968, opposing the Bowen & Valimont petition. On February 7, 1968, Phoenix filed an answer.
On April 15, 1968, oral argument on the rule was held before the court sitting en banc with Mr. Hecht, unaccompanied by counsel, appearing on behalf of the appellant.
On April 18, 1968, while the Bowen & Valimont petition was still under consideration, Phoenix ordered the case put upon the trial list and it was listed for trial on June 18, 1968.
On April 30, 1968, with the court en banc's approval, an order was entered authorizing the law firm of Bowen & Valimont to withdraw.
After the case had been placed upon the trial list, it was scheduled for pretrial conference on May 23, 1968, but this scheduling was continued until June 11, 1968. Notice of the rescheduling was forwarded to Radcliffe and to Leonard C. Hecht.
On June 10, 1968, a member of Leonard Hecht's brother's law firm, Hecht, Cohen & Glantz, of Philadelphia, telephoned the Bucks County Court Administrator, seeking a continuance and advising that it had been contacted to represent the appellant. The court administrator replied that the application for a continuance should be made in person. The caller stated that the firm was not associated with local counsel, that none of its members had qualified to practice in Bucks County under Supreme Court Rule 14, but that he would contact a specified Bucks County law office. This conversation was confirmed by a letter of the same date from Harvey S. Cohen, of the Hecht firm, to the court administrator.
On June 11, the pretrial conference was held without Radcliffe being represented. At the direction of the court, the court administrator wrote Mr. Cohen, advising that an application for a continuance would not be entertained because Mr. Cohen had not entered an appearance in the case and that the case would proceed to trial on June 18, 1968.
On the morning of June 18, 1968, Mr. Leonard C. Hecht appeared in court and requested first, a continuance of the case to a ...