JUDICIAL CODE

Somerset Legal Journal headnotes from approximately 1991 through the present.

For earlier cases, please visit the Somerset County Law Library.

 

DISTRICT JUSTICES

 

The giving of incorrect and inaccurate information to an accused by a District Justice or his or her staff may, if established, constitute a breakdown in the court's operation that warrants the allowance of an appeal nunc pro tunc.  Commonwealth v. Wright, 54 Som.L.J. 101 (Apr. 21, 1997) (Cascio, J.). 

 

A district justice is a "court official" whose fraudulent, wrongful or negligent conduct causing injury to a party would, unquestionably, implicate the integrity of the legal system.  In such a situation, there would be little hesitation to conclude that a breakdown in the court's operation had occurred.  Commonwealth v. Wright, 54 Som.L.J. 101 (Apr. 21, 1997) (Cascio, J.). 

 

While it is clear that a district justice is a "court official," it is equally clear that a PennDOT employee is not.  Commonwealth v. Wright, 54 Som.L.J. 101 (Apr. 21, 1997) (Cascio, J.). 

 

GENERALLY

 

Generally, a member of the judicial branch may act as a check on an elected District Attorney who could not or would not carry out his prosecutorial responsibilities. In Re: Investigation Into the Death of Perry Zimmerman, 64 Som.L.J. 120 (2009) (Cascio, P.J.)

 

The general rules applicable to the discretion of the District Attorney and the limits on the right of the Courts to intrude on that discretion must apply. Although the court should shepherd cases along and foster prompt resolutions in all matters, deciding which alleged crimes merit prosecution at all is given to the District Attorney and the courts must not interfere. In Re: Investigation Into the Death of Perry Zimmerman, 64 Som.L.J. 120 (2009) (Cascio, P.J.)

 

Courts will not review the actions of the executive branch involving acts of prosecutorial discretion pursuant to the provisions of the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, 71 P.S. 732-101, et seq., in the absence of bad faith, fraud, capricious action or abuse of power; nor will they inquire into the wisdom of such actions or into the details of the manner adopted to carry them into execution. In Re: Investigation Into the Death of Perry Zimmerman, 64 Som.L.J. 120 (2009) (Cascio, P.J.)

 

JURISDICTION – COURT OF COMMON PLEAS

 

A Commonwealth Court of Common Pleas has concurrent jurisdiction with its corresponding magistrate’s court over all criminal proceedings  In Re: One (1) Freightliner Tractor…, 60 Som.L.J.196. (Cascio, J.) (2002).

 

JURISDICTION – COMMONWEALTH COURT

 

The jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court is set forth in 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 761.  In Re: District Justice Sandra L. Stevanus, 60 Som. L.J. 385 (2002) (Gibson, J.).

 

JURISDICTION – SUPREME COURT

 

The Supreme Court shall have original but not exclusive jurisdiction of all cases of (1) Habeas corpus; (2) Mandamus or prohibition to courts of inferior jurisdiction; (3) Quo warranto as to any officer of statewide jurisdiction.  42 Pa.C.S.A.§721.  In Re: District Justice Sandra L. Stevanus, 60 Som. L.J. 385 (2002) (Gibson, J.).

 

JURISDICTION – TRANSFER TO COURT OF PROPER JURISDICTION

 

Guidance concerning transfer of a matter or appeal from a court which lacks proper jurisdiction to the court which has proper jurisdiction is set forth in 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5103.  In Re: District Justice Sandra L. Stevanus, 60 Som. L.J. 385 (2002) (Gibson, J.).

 

RULES FOR MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT JUDGES

RULE 1004: FILING COMPLAINT OR PRAECIPE ON APPEAL

 

Rule 237.1 does not apply to a praecipe to strike a claimant's appeal from a District Justice's decision under Pa.R.C.P.D.J. 1004.A and 1006.  Lloyd K. St. Clair v. Dwight St. Clair, 59 Som.L.J. 112 (2000) (Fike, P.J.).

 

Although, "snap" judgment was taken, nevertheless, the plaintiff did not show sufficient reasons for delay in filing the complaint and therefore the plaintiff failed to present equitable considerations justifying the failure to comply with the Pa.R.C.D.J.1004 time limit.  Lloyd K. St. Clair v. Dwight St. Clair, 59 Som.L.J. 112 (2000) (Fike, P.J.).