June 15, 1960
PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION.
Appeal, No. 149, April T., 1959, from order of Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, No. 32178, Folder 6, in case of Claude Smith v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission et al. Order affirmed.
H. Ray Pope, Jr., with him Pope and Alexander, for appellant.
Daniel F. Joella, Assistant Counsel, with him Joseph F. McCloskey, Assistant Counsel, and Thomas M. Kerrigan, Counsel, for Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, appellee.
Heath L. Allen, with him Charles E. Thomas, and Hull, Leiby and Metzger, for protestant, intervening appellee.
Christian V. Graf, for protestant, intervening appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, Watkins, and Montgomery, JJ.
[ 192 Pa. Super. Page 427]
OPINION BY RHODES, P.J.
This is an appeal by Claude Smith, a certificated carrier, from an order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission denying his application for additional transportation authority and ordering him to cease and desist from the transportation of property except as previously authorized. Appellant contends on this appeal that the commission violated appellant's constitutional rights, or committed errors of law in giving consideration to an alleged commission staff report without affording appellant an opportunity to examine the report, and in issuing a cease and desist order without prior specific notice to appellant. Factual or evidentiary questions are not raised.
On October 7, 1957, appellant applied for additional rights as a common carrier by motor vehicle. Protests were filed by other carriers and hearings on the application extended over eight days. Appellant and several of the protestants filed briefs. On April 27, 1959, the commission issued a short form order refusing the application and ordering appellant to cease and desist from the transportation of property except as he had been previously authorized. On May 11, 1959, appellant filed a petition for reopening, further hearing, reconsideration, and modification of the order of April 27, 1959, which petition the commission denied on June 8, 1959. The petition to reopen averred, inter alia, that the commission based its order refusing the application in whole or in part upon consideration of a written report prepared by the commission staff. It was alleged that none of the members of the staff was present at any of the hearings, and that the commission's consideration of this report violated due process of law since the report, the review of the evidence, and the recommendations were not made available to appellant or his counsel. The staff report was not made a matter of record.
[ 192 Pa. Super. Page 428]
On July 6, 1959, appellant appealed to this Court, whereupon the commission petitioned for remission of the record for further study and consideration, to make specific findings in sufficient detail to determine the controverted questions involved, and to make an order based thereon in lien of the previous short form order. The record was remanded and on August 17, 1959, the commission filed its long form order. In its long form order the commission analyzed and discussed the testimony presented on the merits of the application, and concluded that the existing certificated carriers were able to render the service sought by applicant. Hence, the commission determined that the additional rights were not necessary or proper for the service, accommodation, or convenience of the public.
Appellant has not raised any evidentiary questions; nor has he indicated in what manner, if any, the commission's discussion of the evidence and its findings are not in accord with the record. Moreover, he does not demonstrate in what manner, if any, the consideration of a staff report prejudiced his application. In the absence of any showing of such error or prejudice, the constitutional question involving utilization of a staff report normally should not be considered on appeal. Market Street Railway Company v. Railroad Commission, 324 U.S. 548, 65 S. Ct. 770, 89 L. Ed. 1171, 1182; Perrin's Appeal, 305 Pa. 42, 52, 53, 156 A. 305. "'No one is entitled to be heard on a constitutional point which does not prejudicially affect him in the case under review': Com. v. Alderman, 275 Pa. 483, 487 [119 A. 551, 553]." Boocks's Petition, 303 Pa. 363, 366, 367, 154 A. 710.
Our opinion could be terminated at this point. However, because of the importance of the matter we shall discuss the merits.
[ 192 Pa. Super. Page 429]
Appellant's argument is that the denial of access to the staff report deprived him of notice of the issues considered by the commission and of the opportunity of a full hearing before that body prior to its decision, contrary to the fundamentals of due process.
The commission, as an administrative body, is bound by the due process provisions of constitutional law and by the principles of common fairness. Bridgewater Borough v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, 181 Pa. Superior Ct. 84, 101, 124 A.2d 165; McCormick v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, 151 Pa. Superior Ct. 196, 201, 30 A.2d 327. Among the requirements of due process are notice and an opportunity to be heard on the issues, to be apprised of the evidence submitted, to cross-examine witnesses, to inspect documents, and to offer evidence in explanation or rebuttal. Shenandoah Suburban Bus Lines, Inc., Case, 158 Pa. Superior Ct. 638, 644, 46 A.2d 26; Davidson Unemployment Compensation Case, 189 Pa. Superior Ct. 543, 548, 151 A.2d 870. Appellant in his application proceeding was afforded the opportunity of a hearing before a commission examiner. This procedure is permitted by the Public Utility Law and is in accord with the requirements of due process. Section 7 of the Act of March 31, 1937, P.L. 160, 66 PS § 458; section 1004 of the Public Utility Law, 66 PS § 1394. See Davidson Unemployment Compensation Case, supra, 189 Pa. Superior Ct. 543, 548, 151 A.2d 870.
At the close of the hearings the applicant-appellant and the protesting carriers availed themselves of the opportunity to file briefs with the commission. See Rule 47 of the Rules of Practice of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Due process also requires the opportunity to argue the case before the deciding tribunal.*fn1 While there
[ 192 Pa. Super. Page 430]
is no oral argument as a matter of course in every proceeding, Rule 49 of the commission provides that the parties may request it. Appellant apparently made no such request after the close of the testimony. In the absence of a request, it cannot be said that appellant was denied due process in not being heard by the commission itself. See Davidson Unemployment Compensation Case, supra, 189 Pa. Superior Ct. 543, 549, 550, 151 A.2d 870.
From the inception of this proceeding to its culmination in the order of the commission refusing the application, appellant was granted the basic rudiments of due process with regard to the opportunity to be heard and to fully present his case. The final order of the commission is in conformity with the law. Appellant had the further opportunity to demonstrate on appeal the instances in which the commission's action, represented by its order, was improper or departed from the testimony of record. That the commission may have given consideration to a staff report in its decisional process does not, in itself, overcome the presumption that the commission considered the testimony of record and all of the controverted points in its deliberation of the case. Solar Electric Company v. Public Service Commission, 88 Pa. Superior Ct. 495, 499; Willapoint Oysters, Inc. v. Ewing, 174 F. 2d 676, 696. Because of the volume of work before the commission, it must necessarily rely upon its official staff facilities in hearing
[ 192 Pa. Super. Page 431]
and reviewing the matters before it. The record was before the commission, and the decision, represented by the final order, is the decision of the commission. If the order of the commission does not have support in the record or is based upon an erroneous application of the law, such is readily demonstrable on appeal. The rights of the parties are therefore fully protected.
The refusal without hearing of the petition for reconsideration was also proper under the circumstances. The petition did not set forth any facts previously unknown or unavailable to appellant which would materially alter the matters of record. It is settled that the grant or refusal of a petition for rehearing is a matter within the discretion of the commission, and its action will not be reversed unless an abuse of discretion is shown. Yellow Cab Company v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, 161 Pa. Superior Ct. 41, 55, 54 A.2d 301. The disposition of a petition for rehearing is administrative in nature; it involves no new adjudication of rights. In essence it is an affirmation of the original order and is not required to be supported by an explanation of the reasons for its disposition. Department of Highways v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, 189 Pa. Superior Ct. 111, 116, 149 A.2d 552.
The order is affirmed.