Appeal from order of Commonwealth Court, No. 576 C.D. 1972, reversing in part decree of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Feb. T., 1971, No. 2437, in case of Gerald Jackson et al. v. Edward J. Hendrick et al.
David Rudovsky, with him Bruce E. Endy, David Kairys, Kairys & Rudovsky, and Community Legal Services, Inc., for appellants.
John Mattioni, Deputy City Solicitor, with him Nicholas Panarella, Jr. and James M. Penny, Jr., Assistant City Solicitors, and Martin Weinberg, City Solicitor, for appellees.
Mercer D. Tate and Gratz, Tate, Spiegel, Ervin & Ruthrauff, for Philadelphia Bar Association, amicus curiae.
Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.
Appellants, on behalf of themselves and all others confined in Philadelphia prisons, commenced this action seeking equitable relief from the allegedly unconstitutional conditions existing in the Philadelphia prison system. After taking extensive testimony, a special three-judge court found that confinement in Philadelphia prisons constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The court made findings of fact, conclusions of law, and entered a decree nisi. After appellees' exceptions were overruled, the decree was made final.
Appeal to the Commonwealth Court*fn1 resulted in affirmance of the trial court's decree "except that portion providing for the appointment of a master, which portion
[was] reversed." Hendrick v. Jackson, 10 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 392, 403, 309 A.2d 187, 192-93 (1973). We granted appellants' petition for allowance of appeal to determine whether the trial court abused its discretion in appointing the master.*fn2 We modify the order of the Commonwealth Court by reinstating the trial court's decree in its entirety.
The question before us is whether after entering a final decree and retaining jurisdiction, a court of equity may appoint a master as an administrative aid to assist the court and the parties in preparing and implementing a plan to eliminate unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Appellants contend that the Commonwealth Court erroneously found such an appointment violative of Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 1514 and 1515.*fn3 We agree.
In 1894 this Court by rule discontinued the office of master in chancery.*fn4 "By insensible degrees the office of master outgrew its position as a mere executive or administrative arm of the court, and usurped or had imposed upon it, functions which were strictly judicial." Commonwealth ex rel. v. Archbald, 195 Pa. 317, 319, 46 A. 5, 5 (1900). Masters had been "appointed to take testimony, make findings of fact and law, and report decrees for consideration by the chancellor." Rowley v. Rowley, 294 Pa. 535, 539, 144 A. 537, 539 (1928). Although discontinued, the office of master was not ...