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Sadler v. Sheriff

November 20, 1984



Author: Higginbotham

Before: ADAMS, HIGGINBOTHAM and VAN DUSEN, Circuit Judges.


HIGGINBOTHAM, A. LEON, JR., Circuit Judge.

Edward Sadler, a state prisoner, appeals from the district court's denial of his petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (1982).He alleges that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has denied him equal protection of the laws by applying its one hundred eighty-day "prompt trial rule", Pa. R. Crim. P. 1100, from the date of his certification by the Juvenile Court to stand trial as an adult in the Criminal Trial Division, Court of Common Pleas, rather than from the date juvenile proceedings were commenced by the juvenile petition. We will affirm the district court.


Edward Sadler, who was then fifteen years old, participated in two robberies on July 6, 1978. On July 18, 1978, the police arrested him for the robbery involved in this appeal and apparently later released him. Juvenile proceedings were commenced by the Commonwealth pursuant to 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 6321 (1978), on July 19, 1978, with the filing of a juvenile petition; the petition alleged delinquency and charged Sadler with robbery, theft, receiving stolen property, criminal conspiracy and simple assault.*fn1 The Juvenile Court initially listed the case for August 9, 1978, and then continued the case to September 5, 1978 for an adjudicatory hearing. On August 15 and 24, 1978, respectively, the Commonwealth notified Sadler that it intended to request his certification to stand trial in the adult criminal court for the two robberies, pursuant to 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 6355(a) (1978).*fn2

The complaining witness failed to appear at the September 5 hearing, and the Juvenile Court continued the case to September 28, 1978. Sadler failed to appear on that date. The police arrested him on October 11, 1978, and held him in custody. At the next listing, October 23, 1978, the complainant again failed to appear, but the court ordered updated neuropsychiatric studies and listed the case for a status report on October 26, 1978. On October 26, the court continued the hearing to November 14, 1978. The court also scheduled certification hearings for both of the July robberies on November 14, 1978. At that time the Commonwealth presented evidence relating to the robbery not at issue here. The court found Sadler "amenable to treatment" within the juvenile system, denied the certification request, adjudged him to be delinquent, and committed him to Cornwells Heights, a youth facility. The complainant in this case, however, again failed to appear. The court thus continued the hearing. On December 12, 19778, the court found that the Commonwealth had established a prima facie case of delinquency, but continued the hearing on the issue of amenability until January 8, 1979, pending an institutional report from Cornwell Heights.

On January 8, the Juvenile Court found Sadler not to be amenable to treatment and certified him to stand trial as an adult in the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Trial Division. One hundred sixty-eight (168) days later, on June 25, 1979, the criminal court tried and convicted Salder of all charges in a bench trial. The trial and conviction came three hundred forty-one (341) days after the Commonwealth filed the juvenile petition.

After the trial court notified Sadler's counsel that he should raise the issue, he argued in one of the post-trial motions that, as a certified juvenile, Sadler was entitled to the same speedy trial protections as adults, but that the Commonwealth's failure to apply Pa. R. Crim. P. 1100(a)(2)*fn3 from the date of its filing of the juvenile petition, rather than from the date of the criminal complaint, denied Sadler equal protection under the fourteenth amendment. Since Sadler's trial did not begin within one hundred eighty (180) days of the petition, he argued that the court should set aside Sadler's conviction. The trial judge agreed, granted the motion, and ordered Sadler to be discharged. Commonwealth v. Sadler, 3 Phila. 316 (1979).*fn4 The Pennsylvania Superior Court, however, reversed. Commonwealth v. Sadler, 301 Pa. Super. 228, 447 A.2d 625 (1982). Relying on the fact that the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure are not applicable to juvenile proceedings,*fn5 as well as its decision in Commonwealth v. Bell, 245 Pa. Super. 164, 369 A.2d 345 (1976), aff'd mem., 481 Pa. 229, 392 A.2d 691 (1978),*fn6 the Superior Court held that the Rule 1100 period did not begin to run for Sadler until January 8, 1979, the date of his certification and transfer to criminal court. 301 Pa. Super at 231-232, 447 A.2d at 626. The court further held that its conclusion did not violate the Equal Protectiona Clause since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court "could rationally adopt a rule of criminal procedure establishing a fixed period for bringing criminal defendants to trial without applying that rule to juvenile delinquency proceedings. 301 Pa. Super. at 233, 447 A.2d at 627-28. On October 13, 1982, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Sadler's Petition for Allowance of Appeal.*fn7

On remand, the trial court sentenced Sadler to six to twelve months in prison.

Prior to his sentencing, Sadler had petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The district court approved and adopted the Report and Recommendation of the U.S. Magistrate, and dismissed the petition without an evidentiary hearing on December 19, 1983. Sadler filed a Notice of Appeal on December 23, 1983.


In order to grant habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, this court must find Sadler to be "in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." Sadler argues, as he did unsuccessfully below, that Pennsylvania's failure to provide juveniles who are tried as adults the same prompt trial rights as adults, that is by applying Rule 1100 from the time of certification and transfer to criminal court rather than from the time of filing the juvenile petition, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the fourteenth amendment. Under strict equal protection scrutiny, he contends that only a compelling state interest could justify the exclusion of certified juveniles from the full benefit of Rule 1100 prior to certification and transfer under PA. CONS. STAT. § 6355. Alternatively, he argues the district court incorrectly found a rational basis for Pennsylvania's refusal to apply the rule from the date of filing the juvenile petition. Initially, ...

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