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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. CHARLES D. EMANUEL (07/08/83)

decided: July 8, 1983.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
CHARLES D. EMANUEL, JR., APPELLEE



No. 81-3-469, An Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania at No. 2006 October Term, 1979, Affirming the Decision of the Court of Common Pleas Criminal Division, Delaware County at No. 4303 of 1978. Appeal allowed September 28, 1981 at No. 215, E.D. Misc. Dkt., 1981, Roberts, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Roberts, C.j., and Hutchinson, J., concur in the result. Nix, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Flaherty

[ 501 Pa. Page 582]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This case presents the question whether a district attorney's rubber stamped signature on an information meets the requirement of Pa.R.Crim.P. 225(b) that "The information shall be signed by the Attorney for the Commonwealth." For the reasons that follow, we hold that the rubber stamped signature meets the requirements of Pa.R.Crim.P. 225(b), and thus reverse the Order of the Superior Court, 285 Pa. Super. 594, 428 A.2d 204, which affirmed the grant of a motion in arrest of judgment.

[ 501 Pa. Page 583]

On September 20, 1978, after preliminary hearing, ten criminal informations were filed against Emanuel, a detective sergeant in the Chester Police Department, in connection with his participation in a scheme to collect witness fees for testifying in cases where he never appeared. Each of these informations was signed by the rubber-stamped signature of the district attorney. In a supplemental Omnibus Pre-trial Motion Emanuel raised the issue of the validity of the information on account of the rubber stamped signature. Relief was denied and the case proceeded to trial before a jury in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County. At the close of the Commonwealth's case in chief, the Commonwealth withdrew six of the ten informations. On March 13, 1979, the jury found appellant not guilty of one of the remaining four informations, and guilty of the other three: theft by unlawful taking (39 counts); criminal conspiracy (tampering with public records) (211 counts); criminal conspiracy (theft by unlawful taking) (39 counts). Emanuel thereafter filed post verdict motions, and on September 24, 1979 the trial court granted Emanuel's motion in arrest of judgment. The trial court held that an information signed by the rubber-stamped signature of a district attorney is void ab initio, and that the subsequent acquittal of Emanuel's unindicted co-conspirator on the two charges submitted, tampering with public records and theft by deception, required arrest of judgment in Emanuel's case. The trial court's rationale was that in a conspiracy case the Commonwealth must prove that two or more persons are guilty, and that such proof is impossible where the only other co-conspirator is acquitted of charges arising from the same transactions.

[ 501 Pa. Page 584]

The Commonwealth appealed from the Order granting Emanuel's motion in arrest of judgment and the Superior Court affirmed, reasoning that the meaning of the word "signed" is ambiguous, and therefore is not dispositive of whether a rubber-stamped signature met the requirements of the rule. Citing its decisions in Commonwealth v. Belcher, 258 Pa. Super. 153, 392 A.2d 730 (1978) and Commonwealth Page 584} v. Levenson, 282 Pa. Super. 406, 422 A.2d 1355 (1980), the court held that the rubber-stamped signature was inadequate because in the absence of a handwritten signature "it is not at all apparent that a reasoned evaluation of the advisability of instituting a criminal trial has been made," citing Commonwealth v. Belcher, supra. Further, the court stated that if the rubber-stamped signature were to be approved, such approval would frustrate the Judicial Code's requirement that when a district attorney delegates authority to an assistant district attorney to sign informations, he must file with the clerk of courts a written designation identifying the person so authorized. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8931(i).

We begin our inquiry with what is not in the case. Contrary to the view of the Superior Court, we do not believe that Section 8931 of the Judicial Code is relevant to the question before us.*fn1 Emanuel does not argue that the

[ 501 Pa. Page 585]

    person who stamped the informations was not properly authorized to do so or that the district attorney did not make a full inquiry into the facts and circumstances of his case; he argues only that the use of such a stamp does not meet the signature requirements of Pa.R.Crim.P. 225, and that question is separate from other challenges to the legal validity of the informations. Since neither the question of the adequacy of the district attorney's review nor the question of the legality of any delegation of authority was raised, we do not address these matters; nor do we decide the Commonwealth's assertion that if § 8931 were applicable, it is unconstitutional because it violates the doctrine of separation of powers in that it usurps this Court's constitutional authority to establish rules of criminal procedure. See Pa. Const. Art. V § 10(c).

Returning to matters that are relevant to this case, Pa.R.Crim.P. 225(b), in pertinent part, provides:

The information shall be signed by the attorney for the Commonwealth . . . .

As noted by the Superior Court, the rules of criminal procedure do not define "signed," and Pa.R.Crim.P. 2 states that the rules "shall be construed -- as nearly as may be in consonance with the rules of statutory construction." The Statutory Construction Act of 1972 states -- "words and phrases shall be ...


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