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ESTATE SUSAN A. REINERT (06/08/87)

submitted: June 8, 1987.

IN RE ESTATE OF SUSAN A. REINERT, DECEASED. APPEAL OF WILLIAM BRADFIELD, JR.


Appeal from the Order Entered July 1, 1986 in The Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Orphans, No. 803-79.

COUNSEL

William Bradfield, Jr., in propria persona.

Michael F.X. Gillin, Media, for appellee.

Cirillo, President Judge, and Tamilia and Watkins, JJ.

Author: Cirillo

[ 367 Pa. Super. Page 149]

This is an appeal from a summary judgment entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Orphans' Court Division, in favor of appellee, Estate of Susan A. Reinert (Estate). We affirm.

In a separate proceeding in 1981, appellant William Bradfield was convicted in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County of theft by deception and theft by failure to make the proper disposition of funds received. The funds received consisted of $25,000. He was sentenced and ordered to pay restitution of $25,000 to the Estate. Petitions for further review were denied by this court, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and the Supreme Court of the United States. In a collateral criminal matter, appellant was convicted of the murder of Susan Reinert and her two children.

[ 367 Pa. Super. Page 150]

In the instant case, the Estate originally filed an action to recover assets in the orphans' court in 1980. Hearings were held on the matter. Before the decision was rendered, the Estate filed a petition to reopen the hearing citing newly discovered evidence. At the time, Bradfield was being tried on the theft charges. Proceedings in orphans' court were continued pending the result of the theft trial. Once Bradfield was convicted, the Estate filed a motion for summary judgment in the orphans' court, requesting the return of the $25,000 to the Estate. This was granted based on Bradfield's prior convictions. Bradfield appeals from the summary judgment.

We consider two issues on appeal:*fn1 (1) whether the orphans' court has jurisdiction to enter a general money judgment ordering appellant to return a specific sum of money which, after a prior criminal trial, was determined to have been stolen by him from the decedent; and (2) whether the orphans' court can grant a summary judgment ordering appellant to return money which, after a prior criminal trial, was determined to have been stolen by him from the decedent, although there is no evidence that the money is still in his possession.

The jurisdiction of the orphans' court is limited and is statutory in origin. Estate of Hahn, 471 Pa. 249, 252, 369 A.2d 1290, 1292 (1977); Jervis Will, 443 Pa. 226, 279 A.2d 151 (1971); In re Estate of Soupcoff, 329 Pa. Super. 130, 477 A.2d 1388 (1984). The orphans' court is a division of the common pleas court. The courts of common pleas are provided for in our state constitution: "There shall be one court of common pleas for each judicial district . . . . (b) having unlimited original jurisdiction in all cases except as may otherwise be provided by law." Pa. Const. art. 5, § 5.

42 Pa.C.S.A. § 951 discusses court divisions and allows for a separate orphans' court division for Delaware County. There is a mandatory exercise of jurisdiction given to the orphans' ...


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