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ROBERT EBO. APPEAL WILLIAM FORBES (12/15/76)

decided: December 15, 1976.

IN RE ROBERT EBO. APPEAL OF WILLIAM FORBES


Appeal from the contempt order dated June 7, 1976, of the Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Div., of Allegheny County, at No. J-1183 of 1976. No. 852 April Term, 1976.

COUNSEL

Arthur G. Gilkes, Jr., Bryan Campbell, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

No appearance entered nor brief submitted for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Hoffman and Cercone, JJ., took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Jacobs

[ 244 Pa. Super. Page 166]

This is an appeal from an order of the lower court which found Detective William Forbes, a Pittsburgh police officer, in contempt of court. We are convinced that this order was improper, and reverse.

On May 17, 1976, three juveniles appeared before Judge Livingstone Johnson regarding some twenty-eight charges of purse snatching. Appellant as one of three prosecuting officers, was present at this hearing. Due to a determination that a confession of one of the youths was inadmissible, all but three of the charges were dismissed. A hearing on the disposition of the remaining charges was later set for June 7, 1976. On June 6, 1976, an article appeared in The Pittsburgh Press, concerning the May 17 hearing and the dismissal of the charges on that date. The article contained the names and addresses of the juveniles, and described the May 17 hearing.

[ 244 Pa. Super. Page 167]

On the following day when the hearing on the remaining charges was convened, Judge Johnson, concerned that the confidentiality provisions of the Juvenile Act*fn1 may have been violated, undertook a somewhat unique investigation to determine the source of this article. Present at the hearing, among others, were the three juveniles and their attorneys, seven of the juveniles' relatives, two court officials, and the three prosecuting officers, including appellant. After the witnesses were sworn, Judge Johnson ordered the three juveniles to sit elsewhere in the courtroom, and ordered the three prosecuting officers to sit in the seats previously occupied by the juvenile defendants. Printed Record at 4a. The Judge then read the newspaper article to the three officers, and proceeded to interrogate them for some time concerning the possibility of their involvement with the article. Printed Record at 5a-18a. It is clear from the record that Judge Johnson believed that either one or all of the prosecuting officers bore the responsibility for the release of the information to the press, and even threatened appellant with contempt charges as a result of this article being published. Printed Record at 18a. The following exchange took place at the conclusion of Judge Johnson's questioning of the three prosecuting officers:

"DET. FORBES: Do we get to answer any of this, Judge; or do we just sit here?

"THE COURT: Certainly you get to answer it.

"DET. FORBES: Whenever I get to answer it you let me know.

"THE COURT: Certainly you get the chance to answer it, because this is the last chance you will get to act in contempt of this Court without being formally charged. You have a right to show why you shouldn't be held in contempt, brought before this Court, and then given your Constitutional rights and a full hearing, and fair disposition thereafter.

[ 244 Pa. Super. Page 168]

"DET. FORBES: Well, if you feel I am entitled to just what you are talking about, Judge, then I would suggest you go ahead and do that.

"THE COURT: That's my opinion. That's what ...


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