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WRIGHT v. SPECTER

December 18, 1972

James WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
Arlen SPECTER, District Attorney of Philadelphia, Defendant


Joseph S. Lord, III, Chief Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD, III

JOSEPH S. LORD, III, Chief Judge.

 Plaintiff, a former Philadelphia police officer, was arrested on April 7, 1972 on charges of bribery, corrupt solicitation, conspiracy, malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance in office. He has brought this action under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking a preliminary injunction to restrain the defendant, the District Attorney of Philadelphia, from prosecuting in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County criminal charges pending against him. Plaintiff also asks for a declaratory judgment declaring unconstitutional a portion of Section 18 of the Act of October 17, 1969, P.L. 259, as amended July 14, 1971, No. 45, Sec. 1, 17 P.S. Sec. 711.18 ("the Municipal Court Act"), and General Court regulation 71-16 issued on October 19, 1971 by the President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.

 The Pennsylvania Municipal Court Act provides in relevant part:

 
"The municipal court shall have jurisdiction in all criminal offenses for which no prison term may be imposed or which are punishable by imprisonment for a term of not more than five years, including indictable offenses under the motor vehicle law. * * * Until there are a sufficient number of judges who are members of the bar of the Supreme Court serving in the municipal court to handle such matters, the trial division of the court of common pleas shall have concurrent jurisdiction over such matters, the assignment of cases to the respective courts to be determined by rule prescribed by the president judge of the court of common pleas."

 As of January 1, 1969, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, acting within its constitutional power, *fn1" promulgated Rule 6001(b):

 
" Rule 6001. Definitions.
 
* * *
 
"(b) If more than one offense arising out of the same incident is charged, the case shall be a Municipal Court case only if the maximum sentence which may be imposed for all of the offenses charged, if the sentence were cumulated, does not exceed the limits imposed in § 6001(a)." [not more than five (5) years].

 On October 19, 1971, the President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, apparently acting by virtue of the grant of power in the Municipal Court Act, issued General Court Regulation 71-16, which states in relevant part:

 
"All cases within the concurrent jurisdiction of the Municipal Court of Philadelphia and the Trial Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia will be assigned for trial to the Municipal Court, unless the President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas or his designee approves a certification by counsel for defendant that a trial in the Municipal Court will unduly delay defendant's access to a trial by jury or a certification by counsel for either defendant or the Commonwealth that the trial of the case will be so time-consuming as to unduly disrupt the business of the Municipal Court. * * *"

 Finally, on January 5, 1972, the President Judge of the Municipal Court promulgated his own definition of a Municipal Court case, also under the title Rule 6001(b):

 
"(b) If more than one offense arising out of the same incident is charged, the case shall be a Municipal Court case only if the maximum sentence which may be imposed for all of the offenses charged, does not exceed the limits imposed in § 6001(a)."

 On May 5, 1972, the President Judge of the Common Pleas Court certified plaintiff's case to the Court of Common Pleas, pursuant to General Court Regulation 71-16, supra. After unsuccessful challenges to the certification in the state ...


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