H. David Rothman, Harold Gondelman, Pittsburgh, for petitioner.
John J. Kennedy, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Richard E. McDevitt, Executive Director, JIRB, Philadelphia, for respondent.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, and Manderino, JJ. Nix, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
This matter is before this Court on application by petitioner, Charles J. Franciscus, Justice of the Peace for Magisterial District 05-2-44, Allegheny County, to vacate an order of this Court entered on July 28, 1976, suspending him from his office and prohibiting him from exercising any and all judicial functions or duties until further order of this Court. Additionally, the order, which petitioner seeks to vacate, referred petitioner's case to the Judicial Inquiry and Review Board.*fn1 The order of suspension followed petitioner's indictment in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, relating to his official duties as a justice of the peace.
The question raised by the immediate application is whether this Court possessed the authority to issue the order prior to receiving a recommendation for suspension by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Board, pursuant to Article 5, Section 18 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. This is a case of first impression in this Commonwealth.
Petitioner contends that by issuing the suspension order prior to receiving a recommendation by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Board, this Court has deprived him of his office without due process of law. Consistent with this position, petitioner argues that this Court may only suspend a judge or other member of the minor judiciary pursuant to the provisions of Article 5, Section 18 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. We cannot agree.
It is true that Article 5, Section 18 establishes the procedure by which members of the judiciary may be
removed or subjected to disciplinary proceedings. However, Article 5, Section 18 in no way attempts to revoke or diminish the inherent authority of this Court to exercise its superintendency powers over the lower judiciary. The Court's supervisory powers in no uncertain terms are preserved by the Pennsylvania Constitution. Article 5, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides:
"The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a unified judicial system consisting of the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, the Commonwealth Court, courts of common pleas, community courts, municipal and traffic courts in the City of Philadelphia, such other courts as may be provided by law and justices of the peace. All courts and justices of the peace and their jurisdiction shall be in this unified judicial system."
In order to insure a uniform judiciary and to preserve the integrity of its members, the people reserved the power of superintendency over inferior tribunals in the Supreme Court through ...