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BEARD v. STATE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION (01/06/67)

decided: January 6, 1967.

BEARD, APPELLANT,
v.
STATE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION



Appeal from order of Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission, No. 714, in case of Donald L. Beard v. State Civil Service Commission.

COUNSEL

Bruce E. Cooper, for appellant.

Edgar R. Casper, Deputy Attorney General, with him Edward Friedman, Attorney General, for Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Chief Justice Bell and Mr. Justice Eagen concur in the result.

Author: Roberts

[ 424 Pa. Page 147]

Prior to the Act of August 27, 1963, P. L. 1257, 71 P.S. §§ 741.3-741.1005 (Supp. 1965), appellant, Donald L. Beard, a Traffic Engineer I employed by the Department of Highways of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, held a position classified under executive civil service. By virtue of that Act, his position was placed under coverage of legislative civil service and, in accordance with the provisions thereof, appellant was given probationary status for a period of eighteen months.*fn1

In October 1963, appellant was notified that he had been placed on a thirty day suspension.*fn2 In December,

[ 424 Pa. Page 148]

    he was informed that he was being permanently separated from the department because of "unsatisfactory work." Alleging that his discharge was actually motivated by political discrimination, appellant sought to appeal his dismissal to the civil service commission.*fn3 The commission initially denied appellant's request for a hearing, but following this Court's opinion in Hunter v. Jones, 417 Pa. 372, 207 A.2d 784 (1965), the request for an appeal was granted. A hearing was held on May 27, 1965 at which time appellant was represented by counsel. The commission sustained the dismissal and appellant filed a petition in this Court for review pursuant to Rule 68 1/2 which was granted.

The Legislature has provided that "all final decisions of the commission shall not be reviewable by any court." Act of August 27, 1963, P. L. 1257, § 27(c), § 741.951(c). Our review on this appeal is therefore in the nature of narrow certiorari, Hunter v. State Civil Service Comm., 422 Pa. 158, 220 A.2d 879 (1966), and we may consider only: (1) questions of jurisdiction; (2) the regularity of the proceedings below; (3) whether the order of the commission exceeded its powers; (4) or whether the order of the commission violates rights protected by the federal or state constitution. Keystone Raceway Corp. v. State Racing Comm., 405 Pa. 1, 173 A.2d 97 (1961); DeVito v. Civil Service Comm., 404 Pa. 354, 172 A.2d 161 (1961); Dauphin Deposit Trust Co. v. Myers, 388 Pa. 444, 130 A.2d 686 (1957).

On narrow certiorari we cannot, of course, consider de novo the merits of the underlying controversy, but

[ 424 Pa. Page 149]

    this Court has not only the power but the duty to determine that all litigants appearing before judicial or quasi-judicial tribunals are afforded established procedural rights. See DeVito v. Civil Service Comm., supra; Dauphin Deposit Trust Co. v. Myers,*fn4 supra; see generally, Notes, 62 Dick. L. Rev. 243 (1958). The mere fact that the agency's finding is not erroneous on its face, does not insulate it from review by this Court, for in that event the commission could phrase its finding in nondiscriminatory terms so that even if the appointing authority admitted that the employee was fired for discriminatory reasons, political or otherwise, this Court would nonetheless be powerless to intervene. Such a view would run counter to one of the essential rationales of Hunter v. Jones, supra at 379, 207 A.2d at 788: "In the absence of explicit language or of other convincing evidence of legislative purpose to the contrary, we may not conclude that the Legislature intended a result which would be contrary to the entire purpose of the merit system and which would negate its expressed disapproval of discriminatory ...


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