Commonwealth v. Bostian

The defendant was the conductor of an Amtrak train, which derailed in Phila., killing eight people and injuring many others. The PA Office of the Attorney General charged the defendant with causing catastrophe, eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, and 246 counts of REAP. After the preliminary hearing, the judge dismissed the case, ruling the Commonwealth did not make out a prima facie case. The Commonwealth appealed the dismissal of the charges to the Court of Common Pleas and the charges were reinstated. The case was then assigned to a different judge of the Court of Common Pleas. The defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision to reinstate the charges. After a hearing, the judge dismissed the charges. The Commonwealth appealed, and the Superior Court reversed.


The Court ruled that the judge violated the coordinate jurisdiction rule because the prior ruling–made by a judge of coordinate jurisdiction–that the Commonwealth presented prima facie evidence for all charges was not clearly erroneous, manifestly unjust, or plainly intolerable. Moreover, in overruling the judge of coordinate jurisdiction, the judge erred by weighing the evidence and engaging in credibility determinations.

Bostian