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decided: October 8, 1976.



William T. Nicholas, Dist. Atty., Ross Weiss, First Asst. Dist. Atty., Eric J. Cox, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., for appellant.

Joseph A. Malloy, Jr., Philadelphia, for appellee.

Stephen J. McEwen, Jr., Upper Darby, for Pa. District Attys. Assn.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 469 Pa. Page 216]


This case presents the issue whether Pa.R.Crim.P. 1100(c)*fn1 ever permits a trial court to grant a timely application by the prosecution to extend the prescribed time for trial on the sole ground that the court cannot provide trial within the prescribed period. Rule 1100(c) provides that applications by the Commonwealth attorney to extend time "shall be granted only if trial cannot be commenced within the prescribed period despite due diligence by the Commonwealth."*fn2 The Superior Court concluded that this provision does not permit extensions predicated upon what that court termed "judicial delay." It therefore held that the extension granted by the trial court was in error and ordered appellee discharged.*fn3 We granted the Commonwealth's petition for allowance of appeal and stayed the Superior Court's order.*fn4 We reverse and reinstate the judgment of sentence.

A written complaint charging driving under the influence of liquor was filed against appellee Robert King Mayfield on November 29, 1974. Mayfield waived a preliminary hearing, and an indictment was returned on February 20, 1975. On that day, the prosecutor certified

[ 469 Pa. Page 217]

    to the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County that the case was ready for trial. The court administrator scheduled the trial for June 6, 1975, 190 days after the filing of the complaint. On May 16, 1975, 11 days before the 180 day period for trial was to expire, the prosecution petitioned the court for an extension of time for trial pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 1100(c) based on the inability of the court to schedule appellee's trial within the period allowed by rule 1100. On May 27, 1975, 180 days after the complaint was filed, appellee filed an application to dismiss the charges with prejudice as provided by rule 1100(f).*fn5 A hearing was held on both petitions on May 30, 1975, after which the court granted the petition for extension of time for trial, directing that the trial be held on or before September 12, 1975, and denied the application to dismiss. Trial was held on June 10, 1975. Appellee was convicted and sentenced to a fine of $300.

Rule 1100 was adopted by the Court pursuant to our supervisory powers. Commonwealth v. Hamilton, 449 Pa. 297, 297 A.2d 127 (1972). It is intended both to reduce the backlog of cases in the courts of common pleas and to provide an objective standard for protection of a defendant's right to a speedy trial.*fn6 The rule provided a transition period during which both the court system and the attorneys for the Commonwealth could make the adjustments

[ 469 Pa. Page 218]

    necessary to meet the rule's mandate.*fn7 In adopting rule 1100, we gave practical effect to the United States Supreme Court's observation that state courts could, pursuant to their supervisory powers, establish "'fixed time period[s] within which cases must normally be brought.'" Commonwealth v. Hamilton, supra at 302, 297 A.2d at 130 (1972) (quoting Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 2192, 33 L.Ed.2d 101 (1972)).

The rule does not permit an attorney for the Commonwealth to arbitrarily delay trying a case beyond the prescribed period. Rather, the prosecutor must show "due diligence" in bringing the case to trial and obtain a court extension, or the case is dismissed with prejudice. See Pa.R.Crim.P. 1100(f).

The calendaring of cases lies ultimately within the power and responsibility of the trial court. The ABA Project on Standards for Criminal Justice, Standards Relating to the Function of the Trial Judge § 3.8(a) (Approved Draft, 1972) provides:

"The trial court has the ultimate responsibility for proper management of the criminal calendar and

[ 469 Pa. Page 219]

    should take measures to insure that cases are listed on the calendar and disposed of promptly as circumstances permit."

Section 1.2 of the ABA Standards Relating to Speedy Trial*fn8 provides:

"Control over the trial calendar should be vested in the court. The prosecuting attorney should be required to file as a public record periodic reports with the court setting forth the reasons for delay as to each case for which he has not requested trial within a prescribed time following charging. The prosecuting attorney should also advise the court of facts relevant in determining the order of cases on the calendar."*fn9

This Court has expressly recognized the need to encourage trial courts, as well as the prosecution, to act promptly in criminal cases. We stated in Hamilton:

"[A] mandatory time requirement will act as a stimulant to those entrusted with the responsibility of managing court calendars."

[ 469 Pa. Page 220449]

Pa. at 308, 297 A.2d at 133. This in turn helps eliminate the backlog of criminal cases in the courts of Pennsylvania. Moreover, the commentary to rule 1100 states that the transition period provided by the rule was adopted to afford our courts a period of accommodation to comply with the rule:

"The backlog of cases in some urban counties and the present lack of sufficient court terms in some less populous judicial districts would prevent the immediate achievement of the goal. Therefore, for cases initiated within the first year, the goal of prompt trial is set at 270 days; thereafter, all counties will be expected to comply with the 180-day limit."

The Superior Court, concluding that rule 1100 was intended to promote prompt action by the courts as well as by the prosecution, held that delays attributable to court administration could never justify an extension under rule 1100(c). The rule, however, was not intended to create such an inflexible result. This Court is aware that, despite diligent efforts by the trial courts, cases may arise when a trial of a defendant cannot be held within the prescribed period. In such circumstances, the policies which prompted the adoption of rule 1100 would not be served by disallowing a reasonable, limited extension specifying "the date or period within which trial shall be commenced." Pa.R.Crim.P. 1100(c). The rule recognizes that "due diligence" is the most that should be demanded from the prosecutor and that if despite such efforts, he cannot prepare for trial within the prescribed period, an extension is permissible. No more rigid result under our present rule is justified when the inability of a trial court to proceed within the prescribed period is at issue.

Here, the prosecution was prepared to try appellant on February 20, 1975, three months before the 180-day

[ 469 Pa. Page 221]

    period was to expire.*fn10 Nevertheless, because of the backlog of cases, the trial could not be scheduled until June 6, 1975, 10 days after the expiration date. There is nothing in this record to indicate that the cause of the delay was due to the lack of diligence on the part of the trial court. The granting of the extension under rule 1100(c) was therefore appropriate in the circumstances of this case, and rule 1100 was not violated.

However, we recognize the need to insure that trial courts exercise due diligence in implementing the objectives of rule 1100. We do not expect and will not permit the rule to be circumvented by unwarranted grants of extensions.

The public has an overriding interest in the prompt trial of the criminally accused. As stated in the ABA Standards Relating to Speedy Trial § 1.1 (commentary):*fn11

"The interest of the public in the prompt disposition of criminal cases . . . must . . . be recognized. . . . From the point of view of the public, a speedy trial is necessary to preserve the means of proving the charge, to maximize the deterrent effect of prosecution and conviction, and to avoid, in some cases, an extended period of pretrial freedom by the defendant during which time he may flee, commit other crimes, or intimidate witnesses.

"[I]t is generally undesirable to allow an extension of the time limits merely because of the pressure of the trial docket. Such pressures need not unduly delay criminal cases if the calendar is 'governed by two policies -- trial of criminal cases before civil cases . . . and, in general, trial of jailed defendants before

[ 469 Pa. Page 222]

    defendants on bail.' Note, 57 Colum.L.Rev. 846, 866 (1957)."*fn12

This Court therefore expects our trial courts, as well as counsel for defense and prosecution, to exercise the highest standards of professional responsibility in order to implement rule 1100's mission of speedy trials.

Henceforth, the trial court may grant an extension under rule 1100(c) only upon a record showing: (1) the "due diligence" of the prosecution, and (2) certification that trial is scheduled for the earliest date consistent with the court's business; provided that if the delay is due to the court's inability to try the defendant within the prescribed period, the record must also show the causes of the court delay and the reasons why the delay cannot be avoided.

Order of the Superior Court is reversed and judgment of sentence is reinstated.

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