City Hall in Philadelphia ()
After their case seeking to oust Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams was tossed earlier this week, attorney Richard Sprague and former District Attorney Lynne Abraham have filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
On May 17, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Daniel Anders issued a one-page order dismissing the case Sprague v. Williams because the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the claims. Sprague and Abraham filed an appeal to the Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon.
The appeal specifically asks the high court to consider whether the fact that Abraham was the most recent prior district attorney and Sprague’s office often represents people investigated or charged by Williams’ office gives them “sufficient special rights and interests, as distinguished from the rights of the general public, to have standing to challenge R. Seth Williams’ right to hold the office.”
According to Anders’ order, they do not.
“Notwithstanding their substantial experience and long history of public service, the court finds as a matter of law that neither plaintiff has standing to bring a quo warranto action,” he said.
Anders’ order also said the claims appear to be different than the traditional quo warranto claim, “where the exigencies of the circumstances dictated allowing such a claim.”
Sprague and Abraham’s attorney, Peter Greiner of Sprague & Sprague, however, said he plans to soon file a motion expediting the appeal.
“Every day Mr. Williams continues to be the district attorney of Philadelphia, and continues to hold himself out as an attorney in violation of the Supreme Court’s order … and collect a paycheck at the expense of taxpayers in Philadelphia,” Greiner said.
Anders’ order to toss the claims came two days after Sprague and Abraham filed their response to Williams’ preliminary objections, which first raised the standing issue.
In that filing, the two said Williams, who is facing corruption charges and has agreed to a temporary suspension of his law license, is “stealing” a paycheck at the taxpayers’ expense.
“Facing serious federal corruption charges of bribery, extortion, and fraud while in office, Williams agreed to the suspension of his law license. By forfeiting his right to practice law in the Pennsylvania state courts—a statutory prerequisite for all of the commonwealth’s district attorneys—Williams necessarily forfeited his right to continue as the Philadelphia district attorney,” Sprague and Abraham claimed.
The two veterans of the District Attorney’s Office also claimed that because of his suspended license, Williams is not even allowed to refer to himself as district attorney.
Williams’ objections were filed last month by Thomas Burke, Williams’ attorney who also represents him in his federal criminal case.
In those objections, Burke wrote that Sprague and Abraham had no grounds to file their case as private citizens.
Additionally, Burke argued that the Pennsylvania Constitution states “an elected constitutional officer such as a district attorney can be removed from office only upon conviction of misbehavior in office or any infamous crime, or by the governor, for reasonable cause after notice and hearing on the address by two-thirds of the Senate.”
Burke did not return a call for comment.