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Commonwealth v. Creese

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

August 14, 2019

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
LAWRENCE EDWIN CREESE, SR. Appellant COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
LAWRENCE EDWIN CREESE, SR. Appellant COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
LAWRENCE EDWIN CREESE, SR. Appellant COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
LAWRENCE EDWIN CREESE, SR. Appellant

          Appeal from the PCRA Order Entered December 18, 2018 In the Court of Common Pleas of York County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-67-CR-0001064-2013, CP-67-CR-0004360-2013, CP-67-CR-0004367-2013, CP-67-CR-0004379-2013

          BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., MURRAY, J., and STRASSBURGER [*] , J.

          OPINION

          MURRAY, J.

         Lawrence Edwin Creese, Sr. (Appellant) appeals from the order dismissing as untimely his petition seeking relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9541-9546. After careful review, we are constrained to quash this appeal.

         On December 18, 2018, the PCRA court issued its order denying relief; the order listed four docket numbers. On December 20, 2018, Appellant filed a timely appeal "that included all docket numbers in each related case." Answer to Rule to Show Cause, 1/22/19, at 1. Our review of the record reveals that four separate photocopies of the notice of appeal, each listing all four docket numbers, were entered on the trial court docket, and accordingly, on this Court's docket.

         On January 11, 2019, we issued a rule to show cause for Appellant to explain why we should not quash the appeal based on our Supreme Court's decision in Commonwealth v. Walker, 185 A.3d 969 (Pa. 2018) (holding that "where a single order resolves issues arising on more than one docket, separate notices of appeal must be filed for each of those cases"). See Order - Rule to Show Cause, 12/11/19.

         On January 22, 2019, Appellant filed a response, in which he admitted to filing the notice of appeal that included all four docket numbers, and conceding "counsel was previously unaware of the rule in Commonwealth v. Walker." Response to Rule to Show Cause, 1/22/19. Appellant further averred that no party would be prejudiced by "this technical error." Id. By order dated January 25, 2019, this Court discharged the rule to show cause and referred the matter to the merits panel.

         The Official Note to Rule 341(a) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure, which was amended in 2013, provides:

Where, however, one or more orders resolves issues arising on more than one docket or relating to more than one judgment, separate notices of appeals must be filed. Commonwealth v. C.M.K., 932 A.2d 111, 113 & n.3 (Pa. Super. 2007) (quashing appeal taken by single notice of appeal from order on remand for consideration under Pa.R.Crim.P. 607 of two persons' judgments of sentence).

Pa.R.A.P. 341, Official Note.

         Until recently, it was common for courts of this Commonwealth to allow appeals to proceed, even if they failed to conform with Rule 341. See, e.g., In the Interest of P.S., 158 A.3d 643, 648 (Pa. Super. 2017) (noting common practice to allow appeals to proceed if the issues involved are nearly identical, no objection has been raised, and the period for appeal has expired).

         In Commonwealth v. Walker, however, our Supreme Court held unequivocally that "prospectively, where a single order resolves issues arising on more than one docket, separate notices of appeal must be filed for each case." Walker, 185 A.3d at 971 (emphasis added). The Supreme Court observed that the Official Note to Rule 341 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure "provides a bright-line mandatory instruction to practitioners to file separate notices of appeal," and accordingly, determined that "the failure to do so requires the appellate court to quash the appeal." Id. at 976-77 (emphasis added). Because this mandate was contrary to decades of case law, the Supreme Court specified that it would apply only to appeals filed after June 1, 2018, the date Walker was filed. Id.

         Recently, this Court stated:

In Walker, our Supreme Court construed the [Rule 341] language as constituting "a bright-line mandatory instruction to practitioners to file separate notices of appeal." Walker, 185 A.3d at 976-77. Therefore, the Walker Court held that "the proper practice under Rule 341(a) is to file separate appeals from an order that resolves issues arising on more than one docket. The failure to do so requires the appellate court to quash the appeal." Id. at 977. . . . Accordingly, the Walker Court directed that "in future cases Rule 341 will, in accordance with its Official Note, require that when a single order resolves issues arising on more than one lower ...

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