OPPOSING H.B. 2198, WHICH WOULD COMPEL AUTOMATIC ISSUANCE OF DEATH WARRANTS

WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the fourth largest Death Row population in the nation and there are presently 171 people on Death Row in Pennsylvania;

WHEREAS, over half of Pennsylvania's Death Row population were sentenced in Philadelphia County and virtually all can be expected to pursue collateral attacks on their capital sentences through habeas corpus petitions and/or state Post Conviction Relief Act petitions;

WHEREAS, H.B. 2198 would compel the automatic issuance of execution warrants by the Governor or the scheduling of executions by the Secretary of Corrections, if the Governor fails to act, once a sentence of death has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania;

WHEREAS, H.B. 2198 applies prospectively and to all cases where the Governor has already received the transcript of record from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that a sentence of death has been upheld by the Supreme Court;

WHEREAS, H.B. 2198 does not provide that counsel for the person to be executed shall be among the witnesses allowed to be present at an execution;

WHEREAS, there is a substantial legal question whether the General Assembly by legislation may compel the Governor to automatically issue execution warrants in capital cases;

WHEREAS, if H.B. 2198 were to become law, there would be a flood of habeas corpus and Post Conviction Relief Act litigation in the Pennsylvania federal and state courts that the justice system is presently ill-equipped to handle;

WHEREAS, H.B. 2198 does not provide for identification, training or assignment of competent counsel to handle this flood of post-conviction cases and would compel issuance of execution warrants even when no competent counsel is available to represent the capital defendant;

WHEREAS, H.B. 2198 was passed by the House and Senate Judiciary Committees without any public hearings;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association expresses its opposition to H.B. 2198 and requests the General Assembly to hold hearings on the propriety of this proposed legislation; it further requests that H.B. 2198 be held in abeyance until the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has had an opportunity to review the recent decision of the Commonwealth Court in the case of John H. Morganelli District Attorney of Northampton County Pennsylvania. on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Robert P. Casey Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. and Mark Singel Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1994 WL 141122 (Pa.Cmwlth.); and it authorizes the Chancellor to communicate the Board's position to the General Assembly and Governor and take other appropriate steps in furtherance of this Resolution.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: May 26, 1994