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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. BRUCE CARSIA (11/20/86)

decided: November 20, 1986.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT,
v.
BRUCE CARSIA, APPELLEE



Appeal from Order of Superior Court entered April 4, 1985, at No. 17 Pittsburgh, 1983, Affirming Order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Criminal Division, entered December 28, 1982, at No. CC 8201049A; Pa. Super. , Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ.

Author: Nix

[ 512 Pa. Page 510]

OPINION

In this appeal we are called upon to decide the extremely important question of whether the elected Attorney General provided for under Article 4, section 4.1, of our Constitution

[ 512 Pa. Page 511]

    is limited in authority to prosecution of criminal cases as set forth in section 205 of the Commonwealth Attorneys Act ("Act"), 71 P.S. ยง 732-205 (Suppl. Pamphlet 1963-1983).*fn1 The trial court and the Superior Court, sitting en banc, have concluded that the power of the Attorney General to prosecute criminal matters is prescribed by section 205 and that he does not possess any inherent additional powers not therein set forth. For the reasons that follow, we agree with their conclusion.

Appellee, Bruce Carsia, an attorney, was arrested and charged with bribery,*fn2 obstructing the administration of law,*fn3 conspiracy,*fn4 and solicitation*fn5 by agents within the office of the Attorney General. The charges arose from an alleged attempt by appellee to bribe two police officers relating to a pending matter before a District Justice in West Mifflin Township, Allegheny County. Appellee, after preliminary hearing, was held under bond for trial. Thereafter an information was prepared and filed in the Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, by the office of the Attorney General. On December 1, 1982, appellee filed a petition which asserted, inter alia, that the information should be quashed because the Attorney General was without authority to bring the prosecution. The petition was granted and the criminal information was dismissed. An application for reconsideration was subsequently heard and denied. An appeal from that order was taken to the Superior Court. After ruling that the appeal was not interlocutory the Superior Court, sitting en banc, affirmed the dismissal of the information, holding that the Attorney General can only investigate and prosecute criminal actions set forth under section 205 of the Act. 341 Pa. Super. 232, 491 A.2d 237.

[ 512 Pa. Page 512]

Prior to the adoption of Article 4, section 4.1,*fn6 the Attorney General was appointed by the Governor,*fn7 and served at his pleasure as a member of his cabinet.*fn8 In Commonwealth ex rel. Minerd v. Margiotti, 325 Pa. 17, 188 A. 524 (1936), this Court held that the state Attorney General was:

     clothed with the powers and attributes which enveloped Attorneys General at common law, including the right to investigate criminal acts, to institute proceedings in the several counties of the Commonwealth, to sign indictments . . . to appear in court and to try criminal cases on the Commonwealth's behalf, and, in any and all of these activities to supersede and set aside the district attorney when in the Attorney General's judgment such action may be necessary.

Id., 325 Pa. at 31, 188 A. at 530. In so describing the powers of the Attorney General, the Court in Minerd relied on an extensive assortment of English and American historical authorities. Although this rule subsequently enjoyed a long history in the jurisprudence of this state, it was frequently subjected to severe criticism. See, e.g., Re Dauphin County Grand Jury Investigative Proceedings (No. 3), 332 Pa. 358, 368, 2 A.2d 809, 814 (1938) (Maxey, J., dissenting); Margiotti Appeal, 365 Pa. 330, 341, 75 A.2d 465, 470 (1950) (Jones, J., dissenting).

The appellant here asserts that the Commonwealth Attorneys Act is but one source of the Attorney General's powers, and that, moreover, the language of Article 4, section 4.1, of our state constitution and that of the Act evidence an intent to retain the common law powers of the Attorney General.

Article 4, section 4.1, of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides, in part here pertinent, as follows:

An Attorney General shall be chosen by the qualified electors of the Commonwealth . . .; he shall be the chief law officer of the ...


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