No. 459 April Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of December 12, 1977, of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, Civil Action - Law, Beaver, PA, No. 1575 of 1977.
John W. Dineen, Neighborhood Legal Services, Aliquippa, for appellant.
John J. Ross, Aliquippa, for appellee.
Price, Hester and Watkins, JJ.
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This case arises under an October 12, 1977 order of court issued pursuant to Sec. 10186 of the Protection From Abuse Act, Act of October 7, 1976, P.L. 1090, No. 218, as amended June 23, 1978, P.L. 81 (35 P.S. § 10181 et seq.). Two months following the entry of the order, appellee Anthony Cipolla was charged with indirect criminal contempt for willfully violating the aforementioned order. Following a hearing and the submission of an opinion examining all the facts adduced therein, the court found appellee had not violated its order and thus was not in contempt. Appellant Alice Cipolla pursued this appeal. Because we hold that an appeal cannot lie from an adjudication of not guilty of criminal contempt, we quash the appeal.
On October 6, 1977, Alice Cipolla filed with the Beaver County Court a petition under the Protection From Abuse Act*fn1 (hereafter, the Act) alleging that her estranged husband Anthony had at various times during the preceding
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eight months abused, kicked, and assaulted her at her home; that he had threatened her with firearms; that she had been hospitalized and forced to wear a neck brace as a result of his beatings; and that he threatened further violence should Alice pursue legal remedies against him. Alice requested immediate relief from the court in the form of an order instructing Anthony to stay away from her residence and place of employment and to refrain from all further abuse and threats. On the same day, the court, under § 10185(b) of the Act, issued an ex parte temporary order granting the requested relief and setting down a hearing date for October 12 for a full adversary hearing on the matter. On October 12, the parties appeared, represented by counsel, and signed a consent agreement wherein Anthony agreed to refrain from abusing, striking, or threatening Alice and her children. Further, the premises at which Alice was residing were granted exclusively to her for twelve months and Anthony agreed not to enter upon the lot or the residence thereon. An order of court, effectuating all provisions of the consent agreement, was entered the same day.
There followed two petitions by Alice for rules to show cause why Anthony should not be held in contempt of court for numerous violations of the October 12 consent decree. The petitions alleged Anthony had engaged in a string of violent incidents, each beginning with his breaking into his wife's residence late at night, arguing, threatening, and abusing her, and then fleeing before police could arrive. On December 12, 1977 a full hearing on the rules was held, wherein witnesses appeared for both sides. At the conclusion thereof, the court entered an order discharging the rules to show cause and refusing, on the merits, to hold Anthony Cipolla in contempt. His wife brought this appeal, requesting this Court to reverse the court below and rule that Anthony was in contempt of court as a matter of law.
Initially, it is important to note that this case is one of criminal contempt, not civil. In distinguishing between
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the two, our courts have long been guided by the dominant ...