NO. 761 PHILADELPHIA, 1982, Appeal from the judgment of sentence of February 1, 1982, in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, at No. MC 8203-1088.
Athena Mary Dooley, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Howland W. Abramson, Philadelphia, for appellee.
McEwen, Beck and Hoffman, JJ.
[ 323 Pa. Super. Page 150]
Arthur Henry James, Esq., was found guilty of contempt of court by the Honorable Edwin S. Malmed of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, and fined $500 on February 1, 1980. He appeals from judgment of sentence.
James was representing a client, Eric Baynes, in criminal proceedings. In the course of defending Baynes, James asked for and received several continuances. N.T. 3. On February 1, James told Judge Malmed's law clerk that he would appear in court that afternoon with a brief at 3:30. N.T. 2. He did not appear until approximately 4:55.
[ 323 Pa. Super. Page 151]
James explained that he failed to appear at the specified time because he went to see his client Baynes in the cell room to discuss post-trial motions. N.T. 4. He did not call the court to request a change of time or to offer any excuses for his failure to appear. When he finally appeared, he presented no brief to the court, although he had had a number of months to prepare one. N.T. 10. James was cited for contempt for his failure to appear at the agreed hour. Judge Malmed decided that he would not hold him in further contempt for the failure to submit the brief.
On appeal James argues that 42 Pa.C.S. § 4131(3)*fn1 requires the Commonwealth to prove misconduct which intentionally interferes with the orderly process of the court. He maintains that because his absence resulted from his decision to interview his client, rather than an intent to obstruct the administration of justice, he should not be penalized. He cites Commonwealth v. Washington, 468 Pa. 506, 353 A.2d 806 (1976) in which the Supreme Court reversed a contempt conviction where the attorney failed to appear in court because he had overslept. James maintains that noncompliance, without a showing of intent, is not enough to support a conviction for contempt.*fn2
The law is clear that wrongful intent is a necessary element of criminal contempt. Commonwealth v. Starks,
[ 323 Pa. Super. Page 152312]
Pa. Super. 232, 458 A.2d 600 (1983) (reversing a contempt conviction where the attorney refused to obey the court's order because his physical and mental health prevented compliance). Nevertheless, a subjective intent to obstruct the administration of justice is not a requisite of criminal contempt. Commonwealth v. Falkenhan, 306 Pa. ...