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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. MICHAEL G. SABIA AND MICHAEL G. SABIA (06/27/86)

decided: June 27, 1986.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES, PLAINTIFF
v.
MICHAEL G. SABIA AND MICHAEL G. SABIA, JR. AND WAREHOUSE 81 LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, AND DOMINO SALVAGE, INC., DEFENDANTS



Original Jurisdiction in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources v. Michael G. Sabia, Sr., Michael G. Sabia, Jr., The Warehouse 81 Limited Partnership and Domino Salvage, Inc.

COUNSEL

Michele Straube, Assistant Counsel, for plaintiff.

Hershel J. Richman, with him, David J. Brooman ; of Counsel: Cohen, Shapiro, Polisher, Shiekman and Cohen, for defendants.

Senior Judge Lehman. Opinion by Senior Judge Lehman.

Author: Lehman

[ 99 Pa. Commw. Page 31]

The plaintiff, the Department of Environmental Resources (DER), initiated the most recent step in this dispute by filing a petition for contempt of our November 30, 1983 enforcement Order directing defendants Michael G. Sabia, Michael G. Sabia, Jr., Warehouse 81 Limited Partnership and Domino Salvage, Inc. (Sabia) to comply with DER's order of September 3, 1982, which found the defendant in violation of The Clean Streams Law, Act of June 22, 1937, P.L. 1987, as amended, 35 P.S. § 691.1-.1001 and the Solid Waste Management Act, Act of July 7, 1980, P.L. 380, 35 P.S. §§ 6018.101-.1003. In response, Sabia asks this Court to declare DER's contempt petition to be deemed criminal in nature, (thereby entitling Sabia to a jury trial*fn1) and, in the alternative, to dismiss the contempt petition for lack of conformity to law.*fn2 Because we find that Sabia's motion to have this Court deem the present action criminal in nature should be denied, we deny his jury trial demand. In addition, we deny Sabia's motion to strike the petition.

Motion to Declare Contempt Petition Criminal

In support of his motion to deem the contempt proceedings criminal, Sabia contends that the dominant purpose of a contempt citation, should we issue one in this matter, is punitive rather than remedial. Our Supreme Court has said that the test to determine whether a contempt is civil or criminal is to ascertain its dominant purpose. Knaus v. Knaus, 387 Pa. 370, 127 A.2d 669 (1956).

If the dominant purpose is to prospectively coerce the contemnor to comply with an order of

[ 99 Pa. Commw. Page 32]

    the court, the adjudication of contempt is civil. If, however, the dominant purpose is to punish the contemnor for disobedience of the court's order or some other contemptuous act, the adjudication of contempt is criminal.

In re Martorano, 464 Pa. 66, 77, 346 A.2d 22, 28 (1975) (footnotes omitted).

To aid the courts in determining the dominant purpose of a contempt proceeding, the Supreme Court in Knaus articulated five factors that are generally to be considered. A contempt action is usually said to be civil:

(1) where the complainant is a private person as opposed to the government or a governmental agency;

(2) where the proceeding is entitled in the original injunction action and filed as a continuation thereof as opposed to a ...


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