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COMMONWEALTH v. WILLIAMS (09/23/74)

decided: September 23, 1974.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
WILLIAMS, APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of sentence of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, June T., 1973, Nos. 44 and 49, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. James Williams.

COUNSEL

Anne F. Johnson and John W. Packel, Assistant Defenders, and Vincent J. Ziccardi, Defender, for appellant.

James J. Wilson, Mark Sendrow, David Richman, and Steven H. Goldblatt, Assistant District Attorneys, Abraham J. Gafni, Deputy District Attorney, Richard A. Sprague, First Assistant District Attorney, and F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Hoffman, J.

Author: Hoffman

[ 230 Pa. Super. Page 346]

On August 21, 1973, the appellant James Williams was tried before the Honorable Paul Ribner of the Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia County, sitting without a jury, on charges of aggravated assault and battery and carrying a firearm on a public street. Appellant was convicted on both charges and sentenced to concurrent sentences of one to three years' imprisonment. Despite his failure to object at time of trial, appellant contends that the Common Pleas Court was without jurisdiction to try him on these charges, as the law of Pennsylvania vests such jurisdiction in the Municipal Court.

Article V, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, adopted on April 23, 1968, establishes the Judicial Branch of the Commonwealth: "The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a unified judicial system consisting of the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, the Commonwealth Court, courts of common pleas, community courts, municipal and traffic courts in the City of Philadelphia, such other courts as may be provided by law and justices of the peace." Implementing this Article, a Schedule sets forth the composition of the individual courts, their respective jurisdictions, and the method by which members of such courts shall be appointed or elected.

Section 16 of the Schedule, dealing with the courts of Philadelphia County, vests "unlimited original jurisdiction" in the common pleas court over "all cases except those cases assigned by this schedule to the municipal court and to the traffic court."*fn1 Art. 5, Sched., § 16(o). While the traffic court is given "exclusive jurisdiction" over all summary offenses under the motor vehicle laws, the Municipal Court has jurisdiction

[ 230 Pa. Super. Page 347]

    over "[a]ll criminal offenses for which no prison term may be imposed or which are punishable by a term of imprisonment of not more than two years and indictable offenses under the motor vehicle laws for which no prison term may be imposed or punishable by a term of imprisonment of not more than three years." Art. 5, Sched., § 16(r) (iii).

In 1971, the General Assembly, pursuant to its constitutional authority,*fn2 enlarged the jurisdiction of the Municipal Court to "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." (Emphasis added) 17 P.S. § 711.18.*fn3 This legislative act, which superseded Section 16(r) (iii) of the Schedule to the Judiciary Article, additionally provides that in all cases within the jurisdiction of the Municipal Court, "the defendant shall have no right of trial by jury in the municipal court, but shall have the right of appeal for trial de novo including

[ 230 Pa. Super. Page 348]

    the right of trial by jury to the trial division of the court of common pleas. 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 ...


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