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PHILADELPHIA NEWSPAPERS v. HONORABLE DOMENIC D. JEROME (04/28/78)

decided: April 28, 1978.

PHILADELPHIA NEWSPAPERS, INC., THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, CENTRAL STATES PUBLISHING INC., THE PENNSYLVANIA NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION, THE PENNSYLVANIA SOCIETY OF NEWSPAPER EDITORS, AND THE SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS, SIGMA DELTA CHI, GREATER PHILADELPHIA CHAPTER, PETITIONERS,
v.
THE HONORABLE DOMENIC D. JEROME, JUDGE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF DELAWARE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA. EQUITABLE PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC., THE SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS, SIGMA DELTA CHI, GREATER PHILADELPHIA CHAPTER, THE PENNSYLVANIA NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION AND THE PENNSYLVANIA SOCIETY OF NEWSPAPER EDITORS, PETITIONERS, V. THE HONORABLE ROBERT W. HONEYMAN, JUDGE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA. MONTGOMERY PUBLISHING COMPANY, PETITIONER, V. THE HONORABLE ROBERT W. HONEYMAN, JUDGE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA. EQUITABLE PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC., THE SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS, SIGMA DELTA CHI, GREATER PHILADELPHIA CHAPTER, THE PENNSYLVANIA NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION, AND THE PENNSYLVANIA SOCIETY OF NEWSPAPER EDITORS, PETITIONERS, V. THE HONORABLE LAWRENCE A. BROWN, JUDGE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA. MONTGOMERY PUBLISHING COMPANY, PETITIONER, V. THE HONORABLE LAWRENCE A. BROWN, JUDGE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA



COUNSEL

Kohn, Savett, Marion & Graf, David H. Marion, Samuel E. Klein, Philadelphia, for petitioners at No. 384.

Dechert, Price & Rhoads, Arthur E. Newbold, IV, Philadelphia, for petitioner at Nos. 399 and 406.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Roberta S. Staats, Philadelphia, for petitioner at Nos. 400, 401 and 407.

Jonathan Vipond, III, Philadelphia, for respondent at Nos. 384, 399, 400, 401, 406 and 407.

Richard A. Sprague, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth at No. 384.

A. Charles Peruto, Philadelphia, for defendant at No. 384.

William T. Nicholas, Dist. Atty., Ross Weiss, 1st Asst. Dist. Atty., Montgomery County, for Commonwealth at Nos. 399, 400, 401, 406 and 407.

Vincent J. Fumo, Philadelphia, for defendant at Nos. 399, 400 and 401.

Joseph C. Santaguida, Philadelphia, for defendant at Nos. 406 and 407.

Robert P. Kane, Atty. Gen., for Commonwealth at No. 406.

Roberts, Justice. Packel, J., did not participate in the consideration of this opinion.

Author: Roberts

[ 478 Pa. Page 489]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Petitioner newspapers*fn1 filed in this Court petitions for writs of mandamus and prohibition and for extraordinary

[ 478 Pa. Page 490]

    relief, challenging the constitutionality of orders issued by respondent judges, upon the request of defendants in three criminal proceedings, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure.*fn2 Petitioners contended that these orders, limiting public access to pre-trial hearings on motions to suppress evidence, denied their right of access to judicial proceedings. We concluded that petitioners failed to demonstrate that the orders denied them clear rights and therefore denied the petitions.

I. Procedural History

In Commonwealth v. Boyle, Nos. 650-A, 650-B, and 650-C, Washington County, March Session, 1974, the defendant Boyle was accused of ordering the death of United Mineworkers union official Joseph Yablonski, a crime which received massive national publicity. On January 24, 1974, we granted Boyle's request to change venue from Washington County because of extensive publicity concerning the crime.*fn3 In Commonwealth v. Palmer, No. 149-77, Montgomery County, the defendant, a police officer, was accused of kidnapping and killing a Montgomery County citizen. Petitioner

[ 478 Pa. Page 491]

Equitable Publishing averred in its petition that the proceedings were "of the highest public interest and concern in Montgomery County."*fn4 In Commonwealth v. Phillips, No. 5060-76, Montgomery County, the defendant was accused of murdering a Montgomery County police officer. Equitable Publishing characterized these proceedings as attracting similar public interest.

Each defendant filed a pre-trial motion to suppress evidence in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, Pa.R.Crim.P. 323(a), providing for a pre-trial hearing to determine the admissibility of evidence defendants claim has been obtained in violation of their constitutional rights.*fn5 Each defendant requested the trial court to exercise its authority, pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 323(f), 323(g), 326, and 327,*fn6 to enter special orders closing the pre-trial hearing to the public, sealing the record of these pre-trial proceedings, and prohibiting participants in these proceedings from discussing, disclosing, or disseminating evidence "the admissibility of which may have to be determined by the Court." Respondent Judge Jerome entered the requested order in Boyle.*fn7 Respondents Judges Honeyman

[ 478 Pa. Page 492]

    and Brown entered the requested orders in Palmer and Phillips, respectively.*fn8

On May 3, 1977, one day after pre-trial suppression proceedings in Commonwealth v. Boyle began, Philadelphia Newspapers filed a petition to vacate the orders of respondent Judge Jerome, and a request to stay the pre-trial proceedings. Judge Jerome declined to rule on the petition to vacate the orders until completion of the pre-trial proceedings and refused the stay. One day later, Philadelphia Newspapers filed in this Court its petitions for writs of mandamus and prohibition and for extraordinary relief, requesting this Court to direct Judge Jerome to hold the suppression hearing open to the public and provide other appropriate relief, including a stay of all proceedings. On May 9, 1977, Judge Jerome again declined to rule on the petition, believing he lacked jurisdiction over the controversy

[ 478 Pa. Page 493]

    once petitioner sought special relief in this Court. On May 23, 1977, we denied the requested relief.

Equitable Publishing, on May 12, 1977, filed with the trial court a motion to vacate the orders of Judge Honeyman in Commonwealth v. Palmer. Judge Honeyman did not act upon the motion until May 24. Judge Honeyman denied the motion on the basis that the newspapers were without standing to intervene in the criminal proceedings. On May 26, Equitable Publishing filed its petitions for special relief in this Court, requesting the same relief as Philadelphia Newspapers did from the orders in Commonwealth v. Boyle.*fn9 Equitable Publishing averred here that the suppression hearing record had been unavailable only until May 20, 1977, when Palmer's trial ended.*fn10 We denied relief on June 20, 1977.

On May 12, 1977, Equitable Publishing filed a motion to vacate the orders of Judge Brown in Commonwealth v. Phillips. Judge Brown did not rule upon the motion until June 2, 1977, when he dismissed the motions for the same reason as Judge Honeyman. Equitable Publishing filed its petitions for special relief in this Court on June 7, requesting the same relief it sought from the orders in Commonwealth v. Palmer. On June 20, 1977, we denied relief.

Petitioners appealed from the orders of this Court to the Supreme Court of the United States. On January 9, 1978, 434 U.S. 241, 98 S.Ct. 546, 54 L.Ed.2d 506, the Court, per curiam, concluded that the record did not indicate whether we "passed on [petitioners'] federal claims" or whether we denied special relief "on an adequate and independent state ground." The Court therefore vacated our orders denying special relief and "remand[ed] the cause to [this C]court for such further proceedings as [we] may deem appropriate to

[ 478 Pa. Page 494]

    clarify the record. See California v. Krivda, 409 U.S. 33, [93 S.Ct. 32, 34 L.Ed.2d 45] (1972)." Mr. Justice Rehnquist, joined by Mr. Justice Stevens, filed a dissenting opinion. On February 9, 1978, this Court received the official mandate of the Supreme Court. Accordingly, we file this opinion.

II. State Remedies Requested by Petitioner Newspapers

Petitioners sought writs of prohibition and mandamus from this Court.*fn11 ...


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