Norris E. Gelman, Philadelphia, for appellant.
F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Eagen, J., concurs in the result. Jones, C. J., dissents.
In 1960, appellant, who has no other criminal record, was convicted of obtaining a loan under false pretenses and of fraudulent conversion. Post-verdict motions were argued and denied, and on appeal, the conviction was affirmed by the Superior Court. Commonwealth v. Doria, 193 Pa. Super. 206, 163 A.2d 918 (1960). A petition for allowance of appeal from the Superior Court to this Court was filed and subsequently denied by this Court. Appellant paid fines of $150 on each count, thereby completely complying with the judgment of sentence.
On May 30, 1974, appellant filed a petition pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act, Act of January 25, 1966, P.L. (1965) 1580, § 1 et seq., 19 P.S. § 1180-1. In
his petition he alleged that the 1960 conviction was based solely on perjured evidence; that he was denied his right to remain silent at trial; that he was denied his constitutional right to representation by effective counsel; that the trial judge improperly prejudiced the case because the trial judge had previously represented the prosecution's only witness; and that he had suffered collateral civil consequences as the result of the 1960 conviction. In its answer the prosecution denied appellant's substantive claims, but indicated that appellant had stated facts which, if proven, would warrant relief. The prosecution recommended that a hearing be held to determine the accuracy of appellant's allegations.
On June 28, 1974, appellant's petition was dismissed by the trial court without an evidentiary hearing. Basing its decision on Commonwealth v. Sheehan, 446 Pa. 35, 285 A.2d 465 (1971), the court refused to consider the merits of appellant's claim. Sheehan, the trial court concluded, held that appellant's claims were moot. Timely appeal from the trial court's order was taken to the Superior Court, which on February 27, 1975, affirmed the order in a 4 to 3 decision (JJ. Hoffman, Cercone, and Spaeth dissenting), holding that appellant's case was moot because he was not presently suffering any direct criminal consequences as the result of his conviction. Commonwealth v. Doria, 232 Pa. Super. 439, 335 A.2d 472 (1975). We granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal on June 19, 1975, and this appeal followed.
The question presented by this appeal is whether one who has completed a criminal sentence, and who is not presently in danger of suffering any collateral criminal sanctions as a result of that conviction, can challenge the propriety of the conviction in a post conviction hearing pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act, Act of January 25, 1966, P.L. (1965) 1580, § 3, 19 P.S. § 1180-3, or whether the doctrine of mootness should, standing by itself, support the denial of the PCHA petition. Stated
otherwise, should this Court extend the holding of Commonwealth v. Sheehan, supra, 446 Pa. 35, 285 A.2d 465 (1971), to a case which, although not involving direct criminal consequences, does involve direct collateral civil consequences. The majority of the Superior Court, refused to so extend Sheehan. The dissenters on the Superior Court, quoting from a footnote in Sheehan, supra, indicating that recent United States Supreme Court cases "seem to stand for the proposition that the possibility of either civil or criminal collateral consequences forecloses application of the mootness doctrine," 232 Pa. Super. at 446, 335 A.2d at 476, concluded that appellant has a substantial stake in his conviction, that that stake had survived the satisfaction of the judgment of sentence, and that the doctrine of ...