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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ANTHONY VENERI (11/19/82)

filed: November 19, 1982.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
v.
ANTHONY VENERI, APPELLANT. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT, V. CRAIG THOMAS



Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Delaware County at Nos. 3526 and 3713 of 1978. Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Delaware County at No. 1822 of 1979.

COUNSEL

David E. Fritchey, Deputy District Attorney, Media, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Thomas F. Lawrie, Jr., Media, for Thomas, appellee.

David H. Kubert, Philadelphia, for Veneri, appellant.

Vram Nedurian, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, Media, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Cercone, President Judge, and Hester, Cavanaugh, Brosky, McEwen, Beck and Johnson, JJ.

Author: Cavanaugh

[ 306 Pa. Super. Page 398]

These are consolidated appeals in two separate cases from the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County. The common issues in these otherwise unrelated cases are (1) whether an information containing only a rubber stamp facsimile of the signature of the district attorney is properly signed within the meaning of Pa.R.Crim.P. 225(b), and (2) assuming that a rubber stamp is insufficient, whether its use renders the information void ab initio or merely voidable. Because these issues have been the the subject of continuous debate in our decisional law*fn1 we consolidated these cases for en banc consideration.

On July 11, 1978, a complaint was filed charging defendant Anthony Veneri with robbery and related charges in connection with an armed robbery at the Greater Delaware Valley Savings and Loan Association. A second complaint, containing similar charges in connection with an armed robbery at the Elmwood Federal Savings and Loan Association, was filed against defendant on July 13, 1978. Bills of information were subsequently filed against defendant, each containing a rubber stamp facsimile of the signature of Frank T. Hazel, the district attorney of Delaware County. The cases were consolidated for trial before a jury and defendant was convicted of both robberies. Post-verdict motions were filed and denied. This appeal followed. In his brief, defendant, for the first time, argues that his trial was void ab initio because the bills of information had not been properly signed by the district attorney. Accordingly, defendant claims that he is entitled to a discharge.

Defendant Craig Thomas was charged by a complaint of April 11, 1979, with various drug offenses. A criminal information was filed against him containing a rubber stamp

[ 306 Pa. Super. Page 399]

    facsimile of the signature of Delaware County district attorney, Frank T. Hazel. The case then proceeded to trial before the Honorable Melvin G. Levy, sitting without a jury. After the presentation of the Commonwealth's case, the defendant orally presented a motion to dismiss the information on the grounds that a rubber stamped signature was defective. The lower court agreed and dismissed the information. The Commonwealth then took this appeal.

Pa.R.Crim.P. 225(b) states, in pertinent part, that an information "shall be signed by the attorney for the Commonwealth." The Rules are silent, however, as to the definition of the word "signed." Pa.R.Crim.P. 2 states in part that the rules "shall be construed . . . as nearly as may be in consonance with the rules of statutory construction;" the Statutory Construction Act in turn provides that "[w]ords and phrases shall be construed . . . according to their common and approved usage." 1 Pa.C.S. ยง 1903(a). The Commonwealth predictably argues that a "common usage" of the term signature includes the use of a rubber stamp.*fn2 Had the Supreme Court intended, in promulgating Pa.R.Crim.P. 225(b), to require a manual signature, ...


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