Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Erie County, Criminal Division, at No. 915 of 1986.
Thomas S. Kubinski, Erie, for appellant.
Brosky, Del Sole and Johnson, JJ.
[ 361 Pa. Super. Page 216]
This is an appeal from an order denying appellant's motion for reconsideration of an order holding appellant, Robert Michel, Sheriff of Erie County, in contempt of court and ordering him to pay a fine of $50.00.
Appellant raises two issues for our consideration: (1) Does the evidence establish that Bob Michel wrongfully and intentionally disobeyed or neglected the lawful process of the court or that he committed a volitional act which he should reasonably have been aware was wrongful? and (2) Does the evidence establish that Bob Michel can be held guilty of criminal contempt of the lawful process of the court for actions committed by one of his employees?
After careful consideration we find that the holding of appellant in contempt of court under the facts of this case was erroneous. Accordingly, we reverse.
The relevant facts as gleaned from appellant's brief and the hearing transcript indicate that: On June 17, 1986, Deputy Sheriff Joseph Cherico, a 19 year veteran of the Erie County Sheriff's Department, was assigned to Courtroom Number 3, Judge Connelly's courtroom, and was made responsible to escort criminal defendants to and from the courtroom for their hearings on that date. A schedule
[ 361 Pa. Super. Page 217]
was given to Cherico by Chief Deputy Dylewski which showed the name of the defendant and the time at which he should arrive in the courtroom. The schedule showed that a person named Lynn Liptak was to be present in Courtroom 3 at 1:30 p.m. and that Gary Frame was to be present at 2:30 p.m. Cherico escorted Liptak to the courtroom at 1:30 p.m. and after the hearing escorted her back to the prison. Cherico testified that he then pulled a schedule from his back pocket and checked to see if another defendant was scheduled at 2:30 p.m. His testimony was that there was no defendant listed on the schedule for 2:30 p.m. Cherico attributed absence of a 2:30 p.m. defendant to the fact that he kept his daily schedules in his pocket and probably accidentally pulled out the wrong daily schedule. Upon his late arrival in Courtroom 3, Cherico stated, "This is not my regular courtroom and I am getting things by bits and pieces."
In any event, neither Cherico nor Gary Frame were present in Courtroom 3 at 2:30 p.m. Judge Connelly's office called Dylewski at the Sheriff's Office and informed her of this fact and Dylewski immediately paged Cherico to the Sheriff's Office. Dylewski began to make alternative arrangements to have the defendant escorted to Courtroom 3. Just as she did so, Cherico arrived at the Sheriff's Office and Dylewski ordered him to go immediately to the prison to pick up Gary Frame and escort him to Courtroom 3. Cherico arrived with Frame at Courtroom 3 at 2:45 p.m.
Two or three minutes after Cherico left the Sheriff's Office for the prison, Bob Michel arrived at the Sheriff's Office and was informed of the problem in Judge Connelly's Courtroom. Michel was told that Cherico was on his way to the prison to escort Frame to the courtroom. Almost simultaneously, an emergency call was made to the Sheriff's Department regarding a possible problem in another courtroom whereupon appellant left to take care of that ...