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Commonwealth v. Martorano

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 4, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellant
v.
STACEY A. MARTORANO, Appellee

Submitted October 21, 2013

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Criminal Division, No(s).: MC-51-CR-0035051-2010. Before GORDON, J.

Hugh J. Burns, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, Philadelphia, for Commonwealth, appellant.

Joseph K. Kelly, Philadelphia, for appellee.

BEFORE: PANELLA, MUNDY and FITZGERALD,[*] JJ.

OPINION

Page 302

FITZGERALD, J.:

The Commonwealth appeals from an order denying its petition for a writ of certiorari. The petition requested that the Court of Common Pleas vacate an order by the Philadelphia Municipal Court granting the first Post Conviction Relief Act [1] (" PCRA" ) petition of Appellee Stacey A. Martorano. The Commonwealth contends that the Philadelphia Municipal Court has no subject matter jurisdiction over PCRA petitions. It is with the utmost reluctance that we hold that the Philadelphia Municipal Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to entertain PCRA petitions, which are civil in nature. We are thus constrained to reverse the order by the Court of Common Pleas denying the Commonwealth's petition for a writ of certiorari and vacate the Philadelphia Municipal Court's order granting PCRA relief to Appellee.[2]

We state the facts and procedural history, as set forth by the Court of Common Pleas:

On February 11, 2011, [Appellee] pled guilty in the Philadelphia Municipal Court to Driving Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance in violation of 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802. On September 2, 2011, the Philadelphia Municipal Court sentenced [Appellee] to a term of 72 hours to six months incarceration with immediate parole after serving 72 hours of incarceration. The Philadelphia Municipal Court also levied a $1,000 fine on [Appellee] and a twelve month automobile license suspension. [Appellee's] sentence has not expired.
The incident at issue here involving the defendant occurred on August 12, 2010 at approximately 11:40 p.m., when two Philadelphia police officers, Arthur Weston (Officer Weston) and Judy Caldwell (Officer Caldwell), observed [Appellee] in a green Ford Escort disregard a stop sign at the intersection of Tenth and Wharton Streets in Philadelphia. Officers Weston and Caldwell stopped the Ford Escort vehicle. Upon the stop, Officers Weston and Caldwell found [Appellee] to have watery eyes and slurred speech. Officers Weston and Caldwell arrested [Appellee] on suspicion of driving under the influence. Upon a search of [Appellee] incident to the arrest, the Officers found two bags of marijuana in

Page 303

her pocket. [Appellee] admitted to Officers Weston and Caldwell that she had " smoked weed." [Appellee] was charged with Driving Under the Influence; Possession of a Controlled Substance; and other drug related charges. On February 11, 2011, [Appellee] entered into a negotiated guilty plea to two counts of Driving Under the Influence under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802 (d)(1) and (2).
On September 6, 2011, [Appellee] filed an appeal to [the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas]. On January 4, 2012, [the Court of Common Pleas] quashed [Appellee's] appeal because she had pled guilty. On January 20, 2012, [Appellee] filed this petition pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA)[,] 42 Pa. C.S. § 9541 et seq.[,] asserting that her counsel had provided ineffective assistance of counsel by advising her to plead guilty. On January 20, 2012, Judge Joseph J. O'Neill of the Philadelphia Municipal Court granted a stay of [Appellee's] sentence until further notice based on [Appellee's] medical issues. On July 9, 2012, Judge O'Neill held an evidentiary hearing. On December 21, 2012, Judge O'Neill granted [Appellee] relief under the PCRA by vacating [Appellee's] judgment of sentence and ordering that [Appellee] be allowed to withdraw her guilty plea and proceed to trial.
On January 18, 2013, the Commonwealth filed a writ of certiorari to [the Court of Common Pleas]. On January 24, 2013, Judge O'Neill issued his Opinion in support of his December 21, 2012 Order. On February 22, 2013, Judge O'Neill issued a [well-written] Supplemental Opinion addressing the Commonwealth's position that the Philadelphia Municipal Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate a PCRA petition even where the Municipal Court imposed the underlying judgment of sentence for a misdemeanor offense.
On April 8, 2013, after a hearing, [the Court of Common Pleas] denied the Commonwealth's Motion to Dismiss and affirmed Judge O'Neill's grant of relief to [Appellee] under the PCRA.

Trial Ct. Op., 6/13/13, at 1-2.[3]

On May 7, 2013, the Commonwealth filed a timely appeal and a Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) statement. The ...


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