ARGUED: May 10, 2017
from the Judgment of Superior Court entered on 1/8/16 at No.
929 EDA 2014 (reargument denied 2/26/16), reversing and
remanding the February 28, 2014 order of the Court of Common
Pleas, Philadelphia County, Criminal Division at Nos.
CP-51-CR-0007377-2011 and CP-51 -CR-0007379-2011
SAYLOR, C.J., BAER, TODD, DONOHUE, DOUGHERTY, WECHT, MUNDY,
a criminal defendant, challenges the Superior Court's
decision to overturn a county court's finding of a
violation of the rule-based requirement that he receive a
Criminal Procedure 600 requires that "[t]rial in a court
case in which a written complaint is filed against the
defendant shall commence within 365 days from the date on
which the complaint is filed." Pa.R.Crim.P.
600(A)(2)(a). Per the associated computational guidance,
periods of delay at any stage of the proceedings caused by
the Commonwealth when it has failed to exercise due diligence
are to be counted in the 365-day tally. See id.
600(C)(1). The rule further directs that "[a]ny other
periods of delay shall be excluded from the
computation." Id. (emphasis added). Failure to
meet the rule's prompt-trial requirement constitutes
grounds for dismissal. See id. 600(D)(1).
6, 2011, the Commonwealth filed a complaint against Appellant
charging him with a series of crimes arising out of a
drive-by shooting, including attempted murder and aggravated
assault. A scheduling conference was conducted in September
of that year, and trial originally was slated for April 2,
2012. At a status meeting on March 20, 2012, however, per the
Commonwealth's request, trial was continued. A prosecutor
advised the common pleas court that the Commonwealth was not
yet in a position to provide complete discovery, the assigned
assistant district attorney had a planned vacation on the
then-scheduled trial date, and DNA testing of genetic
material from Appellant was contemplated. Trial was
rescheduled to September 10, 2012. As of the time of the
March 20 conference, about nine and one-half months had
passed since the filing of the complaint.
trial was again continued, Appellant filed a Rule 600 motion
to dismiss. In connection with the motion, Appellant conceded
that several weeks should be excluded from the 365-day
calculation. The parties, however, disputed whether 174 of
the days between the filing of the complaint and the status
conference should also be excluded. Moreover, given the
impact of other aspects of the calculation that are not
directly relevant here, the outcome of the dismissal motion
turned on whether or not this 174 days was to be included or
excluded in the 365-day calculation.
Commonwealth contended that the time should be excluded. This
argument was premised on the notion that Rule 600(C)'s
computational instructions, as revised in 2012, radically
alter the primary directive that trial is to commence within
365 days. The Commonwealth's position was, in substance,
that the instructions afford the prosecution leeway to
proceed, without any diligence, to cause up to 365 days of
delay in the commencement of any trial.
common pleas court rejected this position outright and
enforced the rule's main directive, awarding the
dismissal remedy. On appeal, the Superior Court reversed,
however, adopting the Commonwealth's position, see
Commonwealth v. Mills, No. 929 EDA 2014, slip
op., 2016 WL 104533 (Pa. Super. Jan. 8, 2016), which the
Commonwealth defends at length in the present briefing.
for his part, explains that the Commonwealth's
construction of the rule renders it ineffectual. According to
Appellant, by attempting to fairly account for
"delay" within the contours of the prompt-trial
rule, this Court never meant to transform its requirements to
effectively toll the 365-day period throughout all periods of
ordinary trial preparation. See, e.g., Brief for
Appellant at 22-23 ("By the plain language of either the
new Rule 600 or its predecessor, there is no 'delay'
during the time from a scheduling conference to a status
listing[;] . . . [t]he concept of 'delay' refers to
the passage of a period of time that is outside of the
ordinary, routine and expected passage of time.").
Appellant references Commonwealth v. Morgan, 484 Pa.
117, 398 A.2d 972 (1979), as an opinion of this Court
buttressing his position. See id. at 123-24, 398
A.2d at 975 ("[A]ny occurrences between the filing of
the complaint and the commencement of the trial which did not
affect the time in which the trial was commenced . . . [is]
not properly considered as a 'delay in the
prompt-trial rulings are reviewed by the appellate courts for
an abuse of discretion. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Burno,
__Pa.__, __, 154 A.3d 764, 793 (2017). Presently,
however, the dispositive question is framed as a legal issue,
see, e.g., Brief for Appellee at 1, over which our review is
plenary. See, e.g., In re D.L.H., 606 Pa. 550, 563, 2 A.3d
505, 513 (2010).
review, we agree with Appellant that time attributable to the
normal progression of a case simply is not "delay"
for purposes of Rule 600. Accord Morgan, 484 Pa. at
123-24, 398 A.2d at 975. We realize that, given this
Court's holding that periods of judicial delay are
excludible from calculations under the rule, see, e.g.,
Commonwealth v. Bradford, 616 Pa. 122, 141, 46 A.3d 693,
705 (2012), courts of original jurisdiction must apply
judgment in distinguishing between delay attributable to the
court and that which should be allocated to a party.
courts also have discretion, however, to differentiate
between time necessary to ordinary trial preparation and
judicial delay arising out of the court's own scheduling
concerns. Accordingly, where a trial-ready prosecutor must
wait several months due to a court calendar, the time should
be treated as "delay" for which the Commonwealth is
not accountable. Here, ...