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TRAVIS v. TETER (04/01/52)

April 1, 1952

TRAVIS, APPELLANT,
v.
TETER



Appeal, No. 74, Jan. T., 1952, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Jan. T., 1950, No. 249, in case of Dorothy S. Travis v. E. S. Teter and School Districts of Townships of Lehman and Jackson. Judgment in favor of school districts affirmed; order issuing mandamus reversed; reargument refused May 14, 1952.

COUNSEL

E. C. Marianelli, with him R. W. Trembath, for appellant.

Mitchell Jenkins, with him James P. Harris, for appellees.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Bell, Chidsey and Musmanno, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 370 Pa. Page 329]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

This is an action of mandamus. Appellant, a temporary school teacher, challenged the validity of an "unsatisfactory rating" given her by the county superintendent (one of the defendants) at the end of the second year of her services as a teacher, and prayed (a) that the unsatisfactory rating be set aside, and the county superintendent be required to issue a satisfactory rating for the last four months period; and (b) that the defendant school districts*fn1 be directed to tender to her a regular contract of employment as a permanent professional teacher; and (c) that she be awarded damages in the amount of the salary which she lost by reason of the unsatisfactory rating.

Appellees in their answers denied any impropriety or illegality in plaintiff's rating, and likewise denied the other claims and prayers of the plaintiff. The case was tried before a jury, which found a special verdict first, that the official act of the county superintendent of schools in giving the plaintiff an unsatisfactory rating was not based solely upon his personal belief and judgment; and second, that the county superintendent of schools in giving plaintiff an unsatisfactory rating relied solely upon the recommendation of the supervising principal. We shall hereinafter discuss the effect of these findings and whether any questions of this character should have been submitted to the jury.

The court below entered judgment for plaintiff on the special findings of the jury; refused the motion of the county superintendent for judgment n.o.v. and ordered that a writ of mandamus issue directing him to

[ 370 Pa. Page 330]

    rerate plaintiff on the basis of his own judgment; but refused to direct the county superintendent to give plaintiff a "satisfactory rating". The court also entered judgment n.o.v. in favor of the school districts and refused to enter a money judgment against them for appellant's back salary. Appellant appeals from these orders of the court.

The facts were as follows: Appellant was employed as a temporary teacher (without tenure status) in the Lehman Township Schools during the school years 1947-1948 and 1948-1949. Appellant, during the period from 1947 to 1949, received three intermediate satisfactory ratings. On June 29, 1949, appellant received from the county superintendent an unsatisfactory rating, covering the entire two year period. As a result of this unsatisfactory rating, appellant was not offered a contract of employment as a professional permanent teacher by the School District of Lehman Township, and this is probably the main reason for her suit.

We must consider the questions involved in the light of certain principles of law which are well established and directly applicable. Mandamus is an extraordinary writ which lies to compel the performance of a ministerial act or mandatory duty where there is clear legal right in the plaintiff, a corresponding duty in the defendant, and a want of any other appropriate and adequate remedy: Borough of Easton v. Lehigh Water, 97 Pa. 554, 560; Goodman v. Meade, 162 Pa. Superior Ct. 587, 60 A.2d 577. However, even in such cases its issuance is not a matter of right but in certain circumstances is a matter for the sound discretion of the court: Waters v. Samuel, 367 Pa. 618, 80 A.2d 848. It is well settled that in a mandamus proceeding a ...


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