from the Order entered February 20, 2017, in the Court of
Common Pleas of Cambria County, Criminal Division, at No(s):
CP-11-CR-0001043-2009, CP-11-CR-0001044-2009 &
BEFORE: BOWES, J., OLSON, J., and KUNSELMAN, J.
Mauk argues that the trial court violated his constitutional
rights by sentencing him to two weeks in prison for indirect
criminal contempt. The Commonwealth claims that this appeal
is moot, because the trial court freed Mr. Mauk eleven days
later. In the alternative, it argues Mr. Mauk committed civil
contempt; thus, the Commonwealth sees no constitutional
flaws. Mr. Mauk responds that this appeal is properly before
us, because (1) the trial court's violations might
otherwise evade appellate review, and (2) an ongoing
restitution order leaves him susceptible to future,
unconstitutional imprisonment. We find all of Mr. Mauk's
arguments persuasive; therefore, we vacate the trial
court's February 20, 2017 Order.
Mauk has been under an order to pay restitution, court costs,
and fines since September of 2010, when he pleaded guilty to
various theft-related offenses. Mr. Mauk missed several of
his court payments in 2016, so the Commonwealth summoned him
before the trial judge who presides over costs-and-fines
hearings in Cambria County. The trial judge treated Mr. Mauk
the same as she does all alleged contemnors.
December 21, 2016, before calling Mr. Mauk's case, the
trial judge had the deputy read the names of everyone present
who had failed to make timely payments after being previously
held in contempt. Thirty-five people were brought to the bar,
and the judge ruled "all of you who are in front of me
now, failed to purge the conditions of your contempt."
N.T., 12/21/16, at 8. The judge then remanded them into the
sheriff's custody until she determined their sentences,
based on the amount of payments they had made, if any.
the judge called those with no prior contempt findings,
including Mr. Mauk, to ask why they had failed to make timely
payments. When she reached Mr. Mauk's case, the trial
judge found him in contempt and sentenced him to two weeks in
the Cambria County Prison. The judge suspended his sentence,
however, contingent on Mr. Mauk timely "paying January
and February's payments of $150 per month." N.T.,
12/21/16, at 11.
Mauk missed both deadlines and, therefore, had to reappear
before the court on February 20, 2017. That day, prior to
entering the courtroom, Mr. Mauk made both overdue payments
and an advanced payment for March. Once in court, the trial
judge again conducted a group sentencing, and Mr. Mauk found
himself convicted en masse, alongside 53 other
alleged contemnors. The judge told them:
Because you failed to purge your contempt, you are
incarcerated to two weeks in prison. Ms. Clark of the Public
Defender's Office will - you'll be held in a holding
cell downstairs. If anybody has a disagreement that their
payments were not made, in other words - well, a couple of
months ago we had an individual where there was an error
where he had made his payments on time and they had not been
So Ms. Clark will have an opportunity to speak with you only
if you feel there was an error as to payment. Other than
that, you all failed to purge the condition of your contempt
and you're remanded to jail for two weeks, and so the
sheriff's deputies are going to collectively escort you
all to the holding cell.
You'll have an opportunity to speak to your counsel
downstairs. You cannot address the court at this time.
Everybody who is in front of me addressed the court at the
time of the contempt hearing. Sheriff's deputies?
N.T., 2/20/17, at 8-9.
deputies jailed them all, and the judge memorialized Mr.
Mauk's sentence in the February 20, 2017 Order. Ten days
later, with the assistance of counsel, Mr. Mauk filed a
notice of appeal to this Court, and, simultaneously, filed a
"Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and/or Motion for a
Bond Hearing" in the trial court. The judge granted the
writ on March 3, 2017 and set him free.
appeal, Mr. Mauk challenges the constitutionality of the
February 20, 2017 proceeding. The Commonwealth raises a
question of mootness due to the trial court's March 3,
2017 grant of habeas corpus relief. These are both
questions of law. Therefore, our scope of review is plenary;
our standard is de novo. Snead v. ...