Appeals, Nos. 121 and 122, March T., 1958, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Forest County, April T., 1956, No. 2 Miscellaneous Docket, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel. James L. Foreman et al. v. Harold S. Hampson. Judgment reversed.
J. G. McGill, with him McGill & McGill, for appellants.
James L. Foreman, for appellee.
Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Arnold, Jones and Cohen, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE JONES
This action in quo warrantor was instituted by James L. Foreman, district attorney of Forest County, as relator, for the purpose of questioning the right of Harold S. Hampson, Esq., to serve as county solicitor. The complainant alleged that, since Hampson is a nonresident of Forest County, his appointment by the commissioners as county solicitor violates the provisions of Article XIV, Section 3, of then Constitution of Pennsylvania which provides that no person "shall be appointed to any office within any county" unless he has been a citizen and inhabitant therein for one year next prior to his appointment. The relator demanded that the defendant's appointment as solicitor be declared a nullity and that he be ousted from the office. The defendant filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to the complaint, contending that the county solicitor is a county employee and that, consequently, Section 3 of Article XIV has no application to him since the constitutional provision applies only to county officers.
The defendant filed an answer to the complaint following which the court entered an order granting the relator's motion for judgment on the pleadings. At this point the commissioners of Forest County petitioned the court for leave to intervene as parties defendant and to file an answer. Contemporaneously with the court's subsequent dismissal of the defendant's exceptions to the order granting relator's motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court allowed the commissioners to intervene and answer, but, at the same time, entered the judgment of ouster from which defendant Hampson and the county commissioners have taken these several appeals. The court's opinion states that in reaching its decision it considered the facts averred in the commissioners' answer.
Forest County has approximately 5,000 inhabitants, being the smallest county in the Commonwealth in population. The local bar has but three practicing attorneys, one of whom is the district attorney, the relator herein. For reasons which it is now unnecessary to recite, the county commissioners decided to appoint as county solicitor defendant Hampson, a resident of and a practicing attorney in contiguous Warren County which, together with Forest County, comprises the thirty-seventh judicial district. In the answer of the county commissioners, which by the court's allowance became a part of the record, it is averred that the services of Mr. Hampson have been "eminently satisfactory" and have resulted in "substantial savings" to the county.
The sole question to be determined on this appeal is whether a county solicitor is subject to the residence qualifications prescribed by Article XIV, Section 3, of the State Constitution. In considering this constitutional provision it will be helpful to read it in the context in which it appears in the Constitution, as follows: