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.
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
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
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 ...