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JOHN DOE CORPORATION A v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (07/30/84)

decided: July 30, 1984.

JOHN DOE CORPORATION A, B, C, D, AND E, PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA CRIME COMMISSION, RESPONDENT. IN RE: PETITION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF A SUBPOENA TO JOHN DOE CORP. "A"; IN RE: PETITION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF A SUBPOENA TO JOHN DOE CORP. "B"; IN RE: PETITION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF A SUBPOENA TO JOHN DOE CORP. "C"; IN RE: PETITION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF A SUBPOENA TO JOHN DOE CORP. "D"; IN RE: PETITION FOR ENFORCEMENT OF A SUBPOENA TO JOHN DOE CORP. "E"



Original jurisdiction in case of John Doe Corporations A, B, C, D and E v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Crime Commission, In Re: Petition for Enforcement of a Subpoena to John Doe Corp. "A", "B", "C", "D" and "E".

COUNSEL

Mark A. Aronchick, with him, Alan J. Davis, Mark R. Rosen and Helen A. Marino, Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, for petitioners.

Joan Weiner, Special Counsel, for respondent.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers, MacPhail, Doyle, Barry, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Dissenting Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Macphail

[ 84 Pa. Commw. Page 236]

The Pennsylvania Crime Commission (Commission) served subpoenas upon the John Doe Corporations A, B, C, D and E (Corporations) for the production of documents. The Corporations refused to comply with the subpoenas, and the Commission subsequently has petitioned this Court for the enforcement of the subpoenas. The Corporations have filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer and a motion for a more specific pleading.

Concurrently, the Corporations have filed a petition for review in our original jurisdiction in regard to the Commission's subpoenas. The Commission has filed preliminary objections raising a lack of jurisdiction and failure of the petition to conform to law or rule of Court.

Both the petitions for enforcement and the petition for review were consolidated for argument before this Court on the various preliminary objections; we will, however, discuss the preliminary objections to the petitions for enforcement first.

[ 84 Pa. Commw. Page 237]

    procedure for court enforcement of the Commission's subpoenas as a prerequisite to a finding of contempt. Section 7 states:

If any person subpoenaed pursuant to section 4(7) [of the Act] shall neglect or refuse to obey the command of the subpoena, any judge of the Commonwealth Court, upon request of the commission, and on proof of affidavit of service of the subpoena, payment or tender of any fees required and of refusal or neglect by the person to obey the command of the subpoena may issue a warrant for the arrest of said person to bring him before said judge, who is authorized to proceed against said person as for civil contempt of court.

The Commission acknowledges that the failure of the statute to provide an intermediate hearing before the Court on the substance of the subpoenas does not satisfy the requirements of due process.*fn1

Historically, the courts of Pennsylvania have held that a three step procedure is required in order to find a person guilty of contempt where an agency has issued a subpoena; i.e., service of the subpoena; a hearing before a court upon the person's failure to comply with the subpoena and a court order for compliance; and a court finding of contempt for failure to comply with the court's order. See, e.g., Commonwealth ex rel. Chidsey v. Mallen, 360 Pa. 606, 63 A.2d 49 (1949) (enforcement procedure for subpoena issued by administrative ...


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