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decided: October 9, 1970.


Appeal from order of Superior Court, Oct. T., 1968, No. 340, affirming order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Lancaster County, June T., 1962, Nos. 146, 147, 148, 154, and 254, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Jack B. Pifer.


Menno B. Rohrer, for appellant.

Henry J. Rutherford, Assistant District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Roberts

[ 440 Pa. Page 173]

Jack Pifer was arrested and charged with assault with intent to ravish, public indecency and indecent assault in 1962. He pleaded guilty to all these charges and, on August 17, 1962, was committed to the Harrisburg State Hospital pending sentencing. Three years later Pifer was returned to the Lancaster County Prison by virtue of the hospital's diagnosis that although he was not psychotic, he did require protective custody as a mental defective. Shortly thereafter the warden of the county gaol filed a petition with the trial court under the Act of May 25, 1937, P. L. 808, as amended, 61 P.S. §§ 541-1 -- 541-10, requesting that Pifer be removed from his institution and transferred to the State Correctional Institution at Dallas. As required by the "Dallas Act,"*fn1 the trial court appointed two qualified

[ 440 Pa. Page 174]

    physicians to examine Pifer and report their findings to the court. On the basis of this information the trial court sentenced Pifer to Dallas for an indefinite term on May 27, 1966.*fn2

In 1967 Pifer filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act, Act of January 25, 1966, P. L. (1965) 1580, 19 P.S. § 1180-1 et seq. (Supp. 1970), alleging that his commitment to Dallas was unconstitutional because it was made without adequate notice, without a fair hearing, without his having an opportunity to confront the witnesses against him and without his having the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and offer evidence of his own. Because there was no factual dispute involved in the petition the trial court held no hearing but only held oral argument before denying the petition. The Superior Court affirmed this dismissal, Judges Hoffman and Spaulding dissenting in an opinion written by the former. 215 Pa. Superior Ct. 125, 256 A.2d 878 (1969).

As a result of the 1966 report on his mental condition Pifer was committed to Dallas for an indefinite term which could exceed the fixed maximum for which he was otherwise eligible. That such a proceeding must be surrounded by due process safeguards is made clear by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Specht v. Patterson, 386 U.S. 605, 87 S. Ct.

[ 440 Pa. Page 1751209]

(1967), which involved a Colorado sex offender act. The Supreme Court there turned for guidance to a case from the Third Circuit, United States ex rel. Gerchman v. Maroney, 355 F. 2d 302, 312 (3d Cir. 1966), and quoted the applicable rule from that case: "'It [the Colorado act] is a separate criminal proceeding which may be invoked after conviction of one of the specified crimes. Petitioner therefore was entitled to a full judicial hearing before the magnified sentence was imposed. At such a hearing the requirements of due process cannot be satisfied by partial or niggardly procedural protections. A defendant in such a proceeding is entitled to the full panoply of the relevant protections which due process guarantees in state criminal proceedings. He must be afforded all those safeguards which are fundamental rights and essential to a fair trial, including the right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him.' Gerchman v. Maroney, 355 F. 2d 302, 312." 386 U.S. at 609-10, 87 S. Ct. at 1212.

The now repealed Dallas Act fell far short of providing for the necessary due process safeguards, and from the uncontested facts in this case it is clear that Pifer's commitment was accordingly improper.

The order of the Superior Court is reversed, the appellant's 1966 commitment to Dallas is vacated, and the case is remanded for further consistent proceedings.


Order of Superior Court reversed and record remanded.

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