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BERNARD STEVENS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (02/24/88)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: February 24, 1988.

BERNARD STEVENS, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF PROBATION AND PAROLE ET AL., RESPONDENTS

Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole in the case of Bernard Stevens, Parole No. 4150-J.

COUNSEL

David L. Sigismonti, for petitioner.

Robert Greevy, for respondents.

Judges MacPhail and Barry, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 2]

Bernard Stevens (Petitioner) has appealed from a denial of administrative relief by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole following the Board's revocation of his parole for technical parole violations.*fn1 Presently before us for disposition is an application to withdraw appearance filed by Petitioner's current appointed counsel, the Public Defender of Delaware County.

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 3]

In ruling on an application to withdraw appearance, it is this Court's responsibility to make a full evaluation of the proceedings before the Board and the merits of Petitioner's case to determine whether the appeal is in fact wholly frivolous. Craig v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 93 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 586, 502 A.2d 758 (1985). An appeal is wholly frivolous only when it is completely lacking in points that might arguably support an appeal. The fact that an appeal may ultimately be determined to lack merit, however, does not necessarily render it legally frivolous. Id. When applying to withdraw as a court-appointed counsel, counsel has the additional duties of notifying the parolee of his request to withdraw, furnishing the parolee with a copy of his brief and advising the parolee of his right to retain new counsel or personally raise any arguments which the parolee considers worthy of consideration. Craig.*fn2

Craig is based upon Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967) and Commonwealth v. McClendon, 495 Pa. 467, 434 A.2d 1185 (1981). In a recent decision, the Pennsylvania Superior Court, citing Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. , 107 S.Ct. 1990 (1987), held that it was no longer necessary for counsel to file an Anders brief in cases where counsel determines in a Post Conviction Hearing Act, 42 Pa. C. S. §§ 9541-9551, proceeding

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 4]

    that an appeal is frivolous. Commonwealth v. Rauser, 367 Pa. Superior Ct. 370, 532 A.2d 1191 (1987).

In his opinion in Rauser, President Judge Cirillo wrote that the discussion of Anders in connection with an appeal from the Board to this Court was outside of the scope of Rauser, 367 Pa. Superior Ct. at 382, 532 A.2d at 1197.

Because the necessity for counsel in appeals from the Board to this Court was mandated by our Supreme Court in Bronson v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 491 Pa. 549, 421 A.2d 1021 (1980), we are reluctant to follow the result reached in Rauser without further instruction from our Supreme Court. We, consequently, will continue to require an Anders brief from counsel where counsel petitions to withdraw on the ground that the prisoner's appeal is frivolous.

The basis for Petitioner's appeal is his argument that his violation hearing before the Board was untimely. While on parole, Petitioner was arrested on May 14, 1986, in Philadelphia for possession of a controlled substance. He was subsequently held on a Board detainer, having posted bail on May 15, 1986. On June 13, 1986, Petitioner waived a full Board hearing and requested a continuance of his violation and possible revocation hearing pending disposition of all outstanding criminal charges. On August 5, 1986, the criminal charges against Petitioner were dismissed and Petitioner was processed at Graterford State Correctional Institution as a parole violator on September 4, 1986. His violation hearing was ultimately scheduled and held on January 8, 1987. The hearing, thus, occurred approximately 124 days after Petitioner was transferred to State custody, or beyond the 120-day limit for such hearings. 37 Pa. Code § 71.2(11).

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 5]

The Board concluded that the January 8, 1987 hearing was nevertheless timely due to Petitioner's prior request for a continuance pending the disposition of the outstanding criminal charges. The Board contends that the 120-day period never again started to run in this case because Petitioner did not request in writing that the hearing be rescheduled. The basis for the Board's contention that the burden was on Petitioner to affirmatively request that the hearing be rescheduled is the form continuance request signed by Petitioner on June 13, 1986, which included a check mark next to the designation that the violation and/or revocation hearing be continued "[u]ntil further written notice (To be rescheduled at request of parolee)."

In cases where a violation hearing has been continued at the parolee's request, 37 Pa. Code § 71.5(i)(2) provides that:

In determining the period for conducting hearings under this chapter, there shall be excluded therefrom the period of delay at a stage of the proceedings as results from any of the following:

(2) Continuances granted at the request of the defendant or his attorney.

Thus, periods of time attributable to a continuance request are not counted against the Board for purposes of determining the timeliness of a hearing. LaCourt v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 87 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 384, 488 A.2d 70 (1985). Moreover, there is no requirement that a continuance request meet the stringent standards which are applied to waivers of fundamental rights. Id. In the instant case, the violation hearing clearly was held in a timely manner since Petitioner never formally ended the continuance period by requesting that his hearing be rescheduled.

[ 114 Pa. Commw. Page 6]

We, accordingly, conclude that Petitioner's appeal is wholly frivolous. We will, therefore, grant the application to withdraw appearance and dismiss Petitioner's appeal.

Order

The application of counsel for leave to withdraw appearance is granted, and Petitioner's appeal is dismissed.

Disposition

Application to withdraw granted. Appeal dismissed.


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