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COMMONWEALTH EX REL. CAMELOT DETECTIVE AGENCY v. SPECTER (03/29/73)

decided: March 29, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH EX REL. CAMELOT DETECTIVE AGENCY, INC., PETITIONER
v.
SPECTER



Petition for Writ of Prohibition restraining inquiry of investigating grand jury of Philadelphia County, June T., 1972, No. 276, Miscellaneous Docket, No. 19, in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Camelot Detective Agency, Inc. v. Arlen Specter, District Attorney of Philadelphia and the Honorable Harry A. Takiff, Judge, Court of Common Pleas.

COUNSEL

Harold L. Randolph, with him Ronald J. Brockington, for petitioner.

Paul R. Michel, Deputy District Attorney, with him David Richman and Milton M. Stein, Assistant District Attorneys, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for respondent.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Justice Eagen concurs in the result. Mr. Justice Nix took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Manderino.

Author: Roberts

[ 451 Pa. Page 372]

Petitioner, Camelot Detective Agency, Inc. [hereinafter, Camelot] filed a petition for writ of prohibition seeking to restrain the Philadelphia investigating grand jury of June Term, 1972, from continuing to make inquiry of Camelot, its officers and employees. On November 30, 1972, we stayed the proceedings pending disposition of this petition. Having reviewed the entire record, we now deny the petition and vacate the stay of proceedings.

Petitioner asserts that the allegations presented in the district attorney's petition requesting a grand jury investigation and in Judge Takiff's charge to the jury are too vague to warrant the calling of an investigating grand jury. Examination of the district attorney's petition, however, satisfies us that the minimum requisites for obtaining a grand jury investigation were satisfied.

[ 451 Pa. Page 373]

While a "grand jury has broad investigative powers to determine whether a crime has been committed and who has committed it," United States v. Dionisio, 410 U.S. 1, 15, 93 S. Ct. 764, 772 (1973), certain restrictions have been placed upon the grand jury's investigation. In McNair's Petition, 324 Pa. 48, 61, 187 Atl. 498, 504 (1936), this Court said: " A grand jury's investigation cannot be a blanket inquiry to bring to light supposed grievances or wrongs for the purpose of criticizing an officer or a department of government, nor may it be instituted without direct knowledge or knowledge gained from trustworthy information that criminal conspiracy, systematic violations of the law or other criminal acts of a widespread nature prevail, and at least one or more cognate offenses should exist on which to base a general investigation. The investigation cannot be aimed at individuals primarily, as such, nor at the commission of ordinary crimes (Commonwealth v. Zortman, supra; Commonwealth v. Reedy, 21 D. & C. 524; In re Alleged Extortion Cases, supra), but should be of matters of criminal nature wherein public officers or the interests of the general public are involved." (Footnote omitted.) (Emphasis added.) The Court further observed, "The grand jury must not be set upon fruitless searches, founded upon mere rumor, suspicion or conjecture. . . . There must be a sound solid basis on which to proceed." Id. at 62, 187 Atl. at 505. See also Special Grand Jury Case, 397 Pa. 254, 154 A.2d 592 (1959). Again, in Dauphin Co. Grand Jury Investigation Proceedings (No. 1), 332 Pa. 289, 307, 2 A.2d 783, 792 (1938), this Court stated, ". . . before the District Attorney or the court below again proceed to present or to order a grand jury investigation . . . there must be presented some credible evidence from a trustworthy source that a violation of the criminal law has taken place in each of the several charges contained in the District Attorney's petition." (Emphasis added.)

[ 451 Pa. Page 374]

More recently, in Commonwealth v. McCloskey, 443 Pa. 117, 137 n.26, 277 A.2d 764, 774 n.26, cert. denied, 404 U.S. 1000, 92 S. Ct. 560 (1971), we summarized the requirements for calling an investigating grand jury: "It has been suggested that the minimum requisites for obtaining a grand jury investigation are: (a) the subject matter of the investigation must affect the members of the community as a whole, rather than as individuals; (b) the investigation must be aimed at conditions and not primarily at individuals; (c) the ordinary processes of the law must be inadequate to cope with the problems; (d) the investigation must have a defined scope, be aimed at crimes, and supported by information indicating the existence of a system of related crimes or a widespread conspiracy; (e) information as to the crimes must come from direct knowledge or a trustworthy source."

[ 451 Pa. Page 375]

Here, respondent, District Attorney Arlen Specter, averred in his petition that a preliminary investigation revealed a "system of numerous violations of penal laws relating to vice and official corruption involving narcotics and dangerous drugs, liquor and illegal gambling. . . ." The petition further alleged that this systematic criminal activity has "injuriously affected the public health, safety, morals and welfare of citizens of the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. . . ." Additionally, the district attorney alleged that the ordinary legal processes cannot readily cope with the investigation of these conditions because numerous individuals have refused to provide the information requested by respondent. Furthermore, unlike the petition in Special Grand Jury Case, supra, which merely recited general averments of widespread crime, the petition, here, described specific incidents of criminal activity. Finally, the detailed information supporting the petition is alleged to have been obtained from "direct knowledge or a trustworthy ...


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