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CARROW v. PHILADELPHIA (06/24/52)

June 24, 1952

CARROW
v.
PHILADELPHIA, APPELLANT



Appeals, Nos. 187 and 198, Jan. T., 1952, from judgment and order of Court of Common Pleas No. 5 of Philadelphia County, Dec. T., 1951, No. 5025, in case of Margaret S. Carrow v. City of Philadelphia and William M. Lennox, Sheriff. Judgment and order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Leon I. Mesirov, Deputy City Solicitor, with him Abraham L. Freedman, City Solicitor, for City of Philadelphia, appellant.

Harry Shapiro, with him Shapiro, Rosenfeld & Stalberg, for Sheriff, appellant.

J. Wesley McWilliams, with him Allen M. Woodruff, for plaintiff, appellee.

Marshall H. Morgan, for Madeleine C. O'Malley et al., interested parties under Rule 46.

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

Author: Stern

[ 371 Pa. Page 256]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE HORACE STERN

Plaintiff, Margaret S. Carrow, for approximately a year and a half was a telephone operator in the office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia County. On January 28, 1952 she was discharged by the Sheriff, admittedly without cause. She brought the present mandamus action against the City of Philadelphia and the Sheriff seeking restoration to her position, the payment of her salary for the period of her dismissal, and her retention in service until she should have an opportunity to pass a qualifying test as provided by the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter. The defendants filed preliminary objections to the complaint and counsel agreed that the question at issue should be disposed of on a consideration of those objections without the necessity of a final hearing. The court below entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff and ordered that a peremptory writ of

[ 371 Pa. Page 257]

    mandamus issue as prayed for, from which judgment and order defendants now appeal.*fn*

The solution of the legal problem presented in entirely free from difficulty if the controlling enactments are read with an eye to their plain and unequivocal meaning instead of with a straining after forced constructions and a seeking of ambiguities where none exist.

Article XIV, section 1, of the Constitution designated the Sheriff as a county officer, and, since the employes in that office were not under civil service, they were subject to dismissal at the will of their employer. However, by the so-called City-County Consolidation Amendment, adding section 8 to Article XIV, which became effective when it was approved by the electorate on November 6, 1951, all county offices in Philadelphia were abolished and it was provided that all county officers should thereupon become officers of the City of Philadelphia, and, until the General Assembly should otherwise provide, should continue to perform their duties and be elected, appointed, compensated and organized in such manner as might be provided by the Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth in effect at the time the amendment became effective, the officers then serving to be permitted to complete their terms.

Article XV, section 1, of the Constitution gave the right and power to cities to frame and adopt their own charters and to exercise the powers and authority of local self-government, subject to such restrictions, limitations, and regulations as might be imposed by the legislature; it further provided that laws might be enacted affecting the organization and government of

[ 371 Pa. Page 258]

    cities which should become effective in any city when submitted to the electors thereof and approved by a majority of those voting thereon. Acting in accordance with this constitutional provision the legislature enacted the First Class City Home Rule Act of April 21, 1949, P.L. 665, which provided that any city of the first class might frame and adopt a charter for its own government and any such new charter, when approved by a majority of the qualified electors voting thereon, should become the organic law of the city at such time as might be fixed therein. This act further provided (section 17) that, subject to limitations not here relevant, the city framing and adopting a charter should have and might exercise all powers and authority of local self-government and should have complete powers of legislation and administration in relation to its municipal functions, and that the charter thus adopted might provide for a form or system of municipal government and for the exercise of any and all powers relating to its municipal functions to the full extent that the General Assembly might legislate in reference thereto as to cities of the first class, and with like effect, and that the city might enact ordinances, rules and regulations necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers and all other powers vested in the city by the charter it adopted or by that or any other law.

In pursuance of this sweeping grant of powers the electorate of the City of Philadelphia adopted on April 17, 1951 the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter which, by its terms, became ...


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