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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA EX REL. DISTRICT ATTORNEY ARLEN SPECTER v. RALPH M. DENNIS (08/02/73)

decided: August 2, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA EX REL. DISTRICT ATTORNEY ARLEN SPECTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RALPH M. DENNIS, MUNICIPAL COURT JUDGE, AND EDWARD S. COX, MUNICIPAL COURT JUDGE, DEFENDANTS



Original jurisdiction in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel. District Attorney Arlen Specter v. Ralph M. Dennis, Municipal Court Judge, and Edward S. Cox, Municipal Court Judge.

COUNSEL

Steven H. Goldblatt, Assistant District Attorney, with him Robert B. Lawler, Assistant District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for plaintiff.

Howard Gittis, with him Alan J. Davis and, of counsel, Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, for defendant, Dennis.

Isaiah W. Crippins, for defendant, Cox.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.

Author: Bowman

[ 10 Pa. Commw. Page 441]

This is an action in mandamus brought in this Court against two judges of the Municipal Court of Philadelphia.

On February 9, 1973, the District Attorney of Philadelphia filed a complaint in mandamus requesting this Court to order the Honorable Ralph M. Dennis and the Honorable Edward S. Cox, Judges of the Municipal Court of Philadelphia, to "carry out their required duties as public officers and, more specifically, to remain on duty for their entire assignment when scheduled to preside at preliminary arraignments." The District Attorney sought this relief in order to efficiently implement his program of a 24 hour-a-day arraignment court. The complaint alleges that the refusal of these two judges to work the entire eight hours of some of their assigned shifts and their failure to appear at all for other assignments have prevented the functioning

[ 10 Pa. Commw. Page 442]

    of the "round-the-clock arraignment court." To this complaint, Judge Dennis filed preliminary objections asserting that the Commonwealth Court lacks jurisdiction, this Court is not the proper venue for mandamus, the District Attorney lacks standing to sue, and the complaint does not state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. Raising identical issues, Judge Cox filed an answer to the complaint and later moved for judgment on the pleadings.

For a number of reasons we must sustain the preliminary objections and dismiss the complaint.

Initially, we hold that the complaint fails to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. "Mandamus lies to compel the performance of a ministerial as opposed to a discretionary duty. 'The primary requisites of the action are that the plaintiff has a legal right to enforce which is specific, well defined and complete; that a corresponding positive duty rests upon the defendant; and that no other adequate, specific or appropriate remedy exists.': Francis v. Corleto, 204 Pa. Superior Ct. 280, 283, 203 A.2d 520 (1964); Garratt v. Philadelphia, 387 Pa. 442, 448, 127 A.2d 738 (1956)." Commonwealth ex rel. Specter v. Martin, 426 Pa. 102, 107-108, 232 A.2d 729, 733 (1967). Subsequent judicial decisions have emphasized that the plaintiff must have a clear legal right. Garchinsky v. Clifton Heights Borough, 437 Pa. 312, 263 A.2d 467 (1970). The District Attorney concedes that the eight-hour shift availability is not required by the Rules of Criminal Procedure. Nor is the alleged duty sought to be enforced found in any statute or other rule of court. ...


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