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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. THEODORE MARK CROWTHER (06/28/76)

decided: June 28, 1976.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
THEODORE MARK CROWTHER, APPELLANT



Appeal from Order dated June 9, 1975, of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Criminal, at No. 1371 of 1973. No. 1570 October Term, 1975.

COUNSEL

William C. Haynes, Asst. Public Defender, Lancaster, for appellant.

D. Richard Eckman, Dist. Atty., Charles A. Achey, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., Lancaster, for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Hoffman, J., concurs in this result. Spaeth, J., files a concurring opinion.

Author: Price

[ 241 Pa. Super. Page 447]

On October 1, 1973, appellant pleaded guilty to the charge of rape. Pursuant to the terms of a plea bargain, the lower court sentenced appellant to pay the costs of prosecution, to pay a fine of one hundred dollars, and to be incarcerated for no less than four nor more than eight years. On direct appeal, appellant challenged the validity of the guilty plea colloquy. Finding the issue raised to be without merit, this court affirmed the lower court's judgment of sentence in a per curiam order. Commonwealth v. Crowther, 231 Pa. Super. 705, 326 A.2d 64 (1974).

On December 12, 1974, appellant filed a petition under the Post Conviction Hearing Act,*fn1 alleging that his guilty plea was invalid because counsel who had represented him at the plea hearing and on appeal (a member of the Lancaster County Public Defender Office) had been ineffective. For purposes of the PCHA petition, new counsel (also a member of the Lancaster County

[ 241 Pa. Super. Page 448]

Public Defender Office) was appointed and a hearing was held.

At the outset of the hearing, appellant's counsel asked to be replaced by counsel from outside the Public Defender Office, because of an apparent conflict of interest. This motion was denied, the hearing proceeded, and appellant's petition was dismissed. On appeal, appellant contends that the lower court erred in allowing him to be represented by a member of the same office as his allegedly ineffective trial and appellate counsel. We must agree.

In Commonwealth v. Via, 455 Pa. 373, 316 A.2d 895 (1974), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel could not be waived in a proceeding where the defendant was represented by counsel from the same office as the counsel alleged to have been ineffective.

Although Via, supra, is distinguishable from the present case, in that the Commonwealth does not assert that appellant waived any issues, we believe that the rationale of Via mandates reversal. In that case, the court reasoned that "[t]he law will not assume that counsel has advised his client of his inadequacies or those of his associates." 455 Pa. at 377, 316 A.2d at 898. This reasoning obviously imputes a relationship to associates which may preclude zealous advocacy. The nature of the criminal process necessitates that even the appearance of partiality be scrupulously avoided.

Furthermore, it is clear that in many cases, the welltrained eye of an attorney will uncover instances of ineffectiveness that would not be apparent to an uncounseled defendant. When counsel is appointed, it is his duty to examine the entire record for evidence of ineffective assistance, and to present to ...


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