Commonwealth v. Bostian

Bostian 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 Bostian with causing catastrophe, eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, and 246 counts of REAP. After the prelim., the judge tossed 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 where Judge Lewis reversed the dismissal and held Bostian for court on all charges. The case was then assigned to Judge McDermott of the Court of Common Pleas. Bostian filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision to reinstate the charges. After a hearing, Judge McDermott dismissed the charges. The Commonwealth appealed, and the Superior Court reversed.

The Court ruled that Judge McDermott violated the coordinate jurisdiction rule because Judge Lewis’s prior determination that the Commonwealth presented prima facie evidence for all charges was not clearly erroneous, manifestly unjust, or plainly intolerable. Moreover, in overruling Judge Lewis, Judge McDermott further erred by weighing the evidence and engaging in credibility determinations.