Appeal from the Order entered May 13, 1987 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, at No. 86-11-2992-2993.
Elaine DeMasse, Assistant Public Defender, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Donna G. Zucker, Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Com., appellee.
Del Sole, Montgomery and Hoffman, JJ.
[ 372 Pa. Super. Page 551]
This appeal is from the order below granting the Commonwealth's petition to vacate a prior order that had granted appellant's motion to discharge the prosecution. Appellant contends that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to vacate the discharge order because the court did not act within the thirty day period required by 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5505. For the reasons that follow, we agree, and, accordingly, reverse the order below and order appellant discharged.
Appellant was arrested and held for trial on charges arising from the theft of an automobile. Appellant's case was listed for a non-jury trial. On March 23, 1987, the matter was called to trial and appellant moved for discharge. The trial court granted the motion and entered an order discharging appellant. The Commonwealth did not file an appeal from this order. Thirty-one days later, however, the Commonwealth filed a petition to vacate the March 23, 1987 discharge order. On May 13, 1987, following a hearing, the trial court granted the Commonwealth's petition, and entered an order vacating the discharge order, and listing the case for trial. This appeal followed.
Appellant contends that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the May 13, 1987 order because it did not act within thirty days of its original order discharging appellant, as is required by 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5505. We agree. Under the relevant portion of § 5505, a court retains power
[ 372 Pa. Super. Page 552]
to "modify or rescind any order within thirty days after its entry". Id.*fn1 "Thereafter, the [order] cannot normally be modified, rescinded or vacated." Simpson v. Allstate Ins. Co., 350 Pa. Superior Ct. 239, 244, 504 A.2d 335, 337 (1986) (citation omitted) (en banc). See also Commonwealth v. Cook, 359 Pa. Superior Ct. 216, 221, 518 A.2d 858, 860-61 (1986) (trial court does not possess authority to reconsider prior order beyond thirty-day period specified in 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5505). In Simpson, supra, our Court, sitting en banc, emphasized the "very definite function" that this doctrine of finality serves: "[it] establish[es] a point at which litigants, counsel and courts ordinarily may regard contested lawsuits as being at an end." Simpson v. Allstate Ins. Co., supra (citations omitted). Moreover, with specific regard to the thirty day rule mandated by § 5505, the Simpson court noted that,
Although the inability of a court to grant relief from a judgment entered in a contested action after the appeal period has expired is not absolute, the discretionary power of the court over such judgments is very limited. Generally, judgments regularly entered in adverse proceedings cannot be opened or vacated after they have become final, unless there has been fraud or some other circumstance "so grave or compelling as to constitute 'extraordinary cause' justifying intervention of the court."
Id., 350 Pa. Superior Ct. at 245, 504 A.2d at 337 (emphasis supplied) (quoting Klugman v. Gimbel Brothers, Inc., 198 Pa. Superior Ct. 268, 272, 182 A.2d 223, 225 (1962)). See also Commonwealth v. Fiore, 341 Pa. Superior Ct. 305, 313, 491 A.2d 276, 280-81 (1985) (court erred ...