101 A.3d 635 (Pa. 2014), 84 MM 2013, In re Bruno

Docket Nº:84 MM 2013
Citation:101 A.3d 635
Judge Panel:MR. CHIEF JUSTICE CASTILLE. CASTILLE, C.J., SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, McCAFFERY, STEVENS, JJ. Messrs. Justice Eakin, Baer, and Stevens join the opinion. Mr. Chief Justice Castille files a special concurring opinion. Mr. Justice Saylor files a concurring opinion, in which Madame Justice Todd join...
Case Date:August 28, 2014
Court:Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

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101 A.3d 635 (Pa. 2014)


No. 84 MM 2013

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

August 28, 2014

Argued September 10, 2013.

Petition to Vacate the Order of the Supreme Court dated February 1, 2013.

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MR. CHIEF JUSTICE CASTILLE. CASTILLE, C.J., SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, McCAFFERY, STEVENS, JJ. Messrs. Justice Eakin, Baer, and Stevens join the opinion. Mr. Chief Justice Castille files a special concurring opinion. Mr. Justice Saylor files a concurring opinion, in which Madame Justice Todd joins. Mr. Justice Baer files a concurring opinion. Madame Justice Todd files a concurring opinion. Mr. Justice McCaffery files a concurring opinion.


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On August 28, 2014, this Court vacated its Order dated February 1, 2013, by which the Court suspended Magisterial District Judge Mark A. Bruno without pay pending further Order of this Court. See In Re: Bruno, 99 A.3d 526, 2014 WL 4251283, (Pa. 2014) ( per curiam ). This Opinion follows.

The matter before the Court arises out of our supervisory actions following the 2011 federal investigation and subsequent indictment of Philadelphia Traffic Court personnel on allegations of corruption involving " ticket-fixing." 1 The immediate

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issue is whether this Court has the power to act and order the interim suspension from the bench of a sitting jurist charged with a felony for conduct on the bench, and particularly whether such authority exists given the formal disciplinary process available, as vested in the Judicial Conduct Board (the " Board" ) and Court of Judicial Discipline (the " CJD" ). This Opinion thus resolves overarching constitutional questions of the Court's authority and jurisdiction with respect to sitting members of the Judiciary. For the reasons that follow, we hold that:

1. The Supreme Court has the supervisory power, an aspect of its authority at King's Bench, to order the interim suspension without pay of sitting jurists.

2. The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction at King's Bench to resolve the instant dispute, which implicates supervisory actions of the Court relating to personnel of the Unified Judicial System.

3. Acting within their respective authorities and jurisdictions, both the Supreme Court and the CJD have authority to issue orders of interim suspension and to impose sanctions upon jurists. To the extent that any such orders ultimately or necessarily conflict, the order of the Supreme Court is " supreme" and controlling.

Aside from foundational issues regarding the Court's power and jurisdiction is the difficult discretionary question of when to exercise the Court's authority. This Opinion discusses the broad considerations attending that question.

I. Background

On January 29, 2013, a federal grand jury indicted Judge Bruno in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (" district court" ) on felony charges of criminal conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud. On February 1, 2013, the Supreme Court entered an order, without dissent, that relieved Judge Bruno " of any and all judicial and administrative responsibilities as a judge of the Magisterial District Court" and suspended Judge Bruno " without pay" pending further Order of this Court. The Order issued without prejudice to the right of Judge Bruno to seek relief in this Court for the purposes of vacating or modifying the Order. Order, 2/1/2013 ( per curiam ) (" February 2013 Order" ).2 Judge Bruno did not immediately seek such relief.

Meanwhile, on January 31, 2013, the Board filed a petition with the CJD seeking relief similar to that accorded by this Court, the interim suspension without pay of Judge Bruno. The CJD scheduled a telephone conference for February 1, 2013, to consider the Board's petition. According to the Board, around 2:30 P.M. on February 1, 2013, the CJD received notice of this Court's action and, as a result, cancelled its conference and took no immediate action on the Board's petition.

On March 13, 2013, Judge Bruno filed an application for relief in the federal district

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court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from this Court's February 2013 Order, on the theory that the Order violated his due process rights. On May 13, 2013, the district court denied the request for a preliminary injunction. See Bruno v. Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 946 F.Supp.2d 392 (E.D. Pa. 2013). The district court also denied reconsideration. In June and July 2013, Judge Bruno filed several other motions in the district court, which he then withdrew following the directive of this Court to reinstate his pay during his suspension.

In parallel, Judge Bruno also responded to the Board's request that the CJD suspend him without pay. The CJD held a hearing on April 8, 2013. On May 24, 2013, nearly four months after Judge Bruno was indicted, the CJD issued an order, accompanied by opinion, suspending Judge Bruno with pay. The CJD ordered that any compensation withheld from Bruno since February 2013 be paid immediately to him. See In re Bruno, 69 A.3d 780 (Pa. Ct. Jud. Disc. 2013). The CJD's directive necessarily assumed a power to overturn this Court's prior order.

On May 28, 2013, Judge Bruno filed a petition with the Supreme Court to vacate its February 1, 2013, Order for suspension without pay. The Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts (the " AOPC" ) entered its appearance as respondent. On June 20, 2013, Judge Bruno filed a petition to expedite decision, in which he requested a hearing before the Court. On July 11, 2013, the Court acted on Judge Bruno's petition to vacate by listing the matter for oral argument. The Court requested briefing and argument on three constitutional issues. The issues briefed are:

(1) Whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has jurisdiction to enter orders of interim suspension of jurists.

(2) Whether the Court of Judicial Discipline has exclusive jurisdiction to enter orders of interim suspension of jurists, or whether the Court of Judicial Discipline's jurisdiction is concurrent with the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. (3) If both tribunals act, which order is supreme.

In re Bruno, 620 Pa. 598, 71 A.3d 249 (Pa. 2013) ( per curiam ). The Court also directed the AOPC to recommence paying Judge Bruno's salary retroactive to February 1, 2013, pending resolution of the dispute, albeit we did not vacate our prior order. Finally, the Court invited the Judicial Conduct Board to participate in oral argument. The petition for expedited consideration and a " timely hearing" was dismissed as moot. Id.

On July 25, 2013, upon a joint application by the parties that the Court granted, this matter was consolidated for briefing and argument with the distinct case involving Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Christine Solomon, a case which was tangentially related to the federal investigation into Traffic Court corruption, but which implicated similar constitutional claims.3 In addition, the Court received

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amicus curiae briefs from the Special Court Judges Association of Pennsylvania (the " SCJAP" ) and from the Pennsylvania Bar Association (the " PBA" ).

In August 2014, a federal jury acquitted Judge Bruno of felony charges (criminal conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud) relating to his service on the bench at Philadelphia's Traffic Court. Our Order of August 28, 2014, vacating the February 1, 2013, Order freed Judge Bruno to return to service on the bench. This Opinion now addresses the constitutional issues briefed.

II. The Parties' Arguments

The arguments of the Board and Judge Bruno (together, " petitioners" ) overlap to a significant degree. Essentially, petitioners argue that the Supreme Court lacks power to enter orders suspending jurists and to act otherwise in any matter that may be considered " disciplinary." In these litigants' view, the CJD's jurisdiction is exclusive in these cases. As a result of this theory, the question of which order is supreme when both the CJD and the Supreme Court act should not and would not arise again. The AOPC responds that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has " King's Bench" jurisdiction over the Bruno matter pursuant to its administrative and supervisory authority over the courts and judicial officers of the Unified Judicial System. According to the AOPC, this jurisdiction is concurrent with that of the CJD over disciplinary matters; however, this Court's authority is " supreme," overriding inconsistent directives of the CJD. In addition to the parties' arguments, we also recount those offered by the PBA in analyzing the

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constitutional issues implicated here. We note that the PBA has filed a particularly helpful brief, which dispassionately addresses the dispute before the Court in the true spirit of " friend of the Court" advocacy.4

A. Petitioners' Arguments


Petitioners suggest that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction over the Bruno case. According to petitioners, the Court's general supervisory and administrative authority over all courts and magisterial district judges, while broad, does not include any matter implicating judicial discipline.

Petitioners begin by noting that any authority of this Court over inferior tribunals originates in the King's Bench power, which was first recognized by the Act of May 22, 1722, and is memorialized in the current Pennsylvania Constitution at Article V, Section 10. Board's Brief at 27-29 & nn. 10, 13 (citing Pa. Const. art. V, § 10(a) (1968); 42 Pa.C.S. § 502)...

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