Appeals from judgments of Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Nos. 96, 171 and 172 Commonwealth Docket, 1964, in cases of Harry L. Hunter v. C. Herschel Jones, Mary D. Barnes and John A. M. McCarthy; Thomas J. Hennigan v. Same; and John J. Cione v. Same.
Edgar R. Casper, Deputy Attorney General, with him Walter E. Alessandroni, Attorney General, for appellants.
Jerome H. Gerber, for appellees.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.
Appellees are state employees who filed complaints in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, sitting as the Commonwealth Court, seeking mandamus. The requested relief was for an order which would direct the members of the Civil Service Commission to grant hearings with respect to appellees' contentions that their discharges from state employment
were discriminatory and therefore in contravention of certain provisions of the Civil Service Act.*fn1 Appellants-defendants are the three members of the Civil Service Commission. There is no dispute of fact in the case; the issue is one of statutory construction.
Prior to August 27, 1963, appellees held regular (non-probationary) status under executive civil service*fn2 in positions designated as professional or technical by the Executive Board of the Commonwealth. On that date, Act No. 520*fn3 became effective and appellees lost their regular status under executive civil service and acquired probationary status in the legislative (or classified) civil service system.*fn4 In December 1963, appellees were separated from the classified service upon being notified that their work was "unsatisfactory". The Civil Service Commission denied appellees'
requests for hearings on the theory that probationary employees in appellees' category lack any right of appeal, even if there is an allegation of discrimination.
In plaintiffs' mandamus actions the Commonwealth Court held that the Civil Service Act does permit appeals based on allegations of political discrimination, dismissed appellants' preliminary objections to its jurisdiction, and granted appellees' motions for summary judgments. The court ordered the Commission to hold public hearings in accordance with appellees' requests.*fn5 It is from these judgments that the present appeals have been taken.
In arguing for the reversal of these judgments, appellants cite the language of § 28(c) of the 1963 amendatory act,*fn6 a section which concededly applies to appellees. The section provides that "any person serving such probationary period may, at any time within such period . . . upon written notification of unsatisfactory work . . . be separated from classified service without the right of appeal." Appellants would have us construe the phrase " without the right of appeal " so ...