Amy Burke challenged the order denying her pretrial Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus after the Commonwealth and trial court agreed with her that the magisterial district court and trial court violated Commonwealth v. McClelland, 233 A.3d. 717, (Pa. 2020) by binding her charge of Corruption of Minors over for trial, relying exclusively on hearsay evidence at the preliminary and habeas corpus hearings.

The only remaining issue facing the Superior Court was whether (a) Ms. Burke should be discharged without prejudice for the Commonwealth to recharge her within the unexpired statute of limitations or (b) the case should be remanded for a supplemental habeas corpus hearing in the trial court.

The Commonwealth’s argument for remand was based on “policy, judicial economy, and prosecutorial efficiency.” However, the Superior Court found precedential decisions of the PA Supreme Court, “ancient” common law, the Constitution, and the Magna Carta more persuasive, concluding that discharge was the proper remedy.

Citing with emphasis Com. ex rel. Levine v. Fair, 146 A.2d 834, 845 (Pa. 1958), the Superior Court noted, “Hence, no matter what may be the situation or how involved the circumstances, any person who claims he is illegally imprisoned or restrained of his liberty may have such claim inquired into by a competent court, and, if his claim is found to be well grounded, he will be discharged and freed of such restraint.

The Court concluded that “no matter how inconvenient it may be for the Commonwealth to recharge Ms. Burke, to rearrest her, to have a court reset her bail, and to redo her preliminary hearing, our state constitution and the Writ of Habeas Corpus do not concern themselves with conveniences of the Commonwealth.”

The Court further explained that it was simply reaffirming “the principles of justice dating back to Magna Carta, the corresponding common law of habeas corpus relief, and the ancient line of unbroken precedents applying them.”

Ms. Burke was therefore discharged from custody without prejudice to the Commonwealth to refile its charge.

Commonwealth v. Amy Burke, No. 496 MDA 2020 (Pa. Super. 08/19/2021)