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DEJOSEPH ET AL. v. OSSER (05/09/69)

decided: May 9, 1969.

DEJOSEPH ET AL., APPELLANTS,
v.
OSSER



Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Aug. T., 1968, No. 1682, in case of Domenic DeJoseph et al. v. Maurice S. Osser et al.

COUNSEL

Edward R. Becker, with him Robert Baer Cohen, Herbert W. Salus, Jr. and William A. Meehan, for appellants.

Levy Anderson, First Deputy City Solicitor, with him Frank J. Pfizenmayer, Assistant City Solicitor, Matthew W. Bullock, Jr., Second Deputy City Solicitor, and Edward G. Bauer, Jr., City Solicitor, for appellees.

David Berger, for intervenor, appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Pomeroy.

Author: Eagen

[ 434 Pa. Page 416]

In the City of Philadelphia, the City Commissioners act as the County Board of Elections. In an effort to encourage voter registration and increased citizen participation in elections, the Commissioners, in addition to the fixed sites provided for voter registration in every ward throughout the City, also provide what is known as a field and bus registration program. Under this plan, traveling registrars go to various predetermined places throughout the City on various dates to accept voter registrations. Such a program has been in effect for several years. For the 1968 election, this program commenced on July 15, 1968, and ended on September 18, 1968.

On August 27, 1968, the instant action in equity was instituted seeking to enjoin the Commissioners from continuing the field and bus registration program adopted and then in progress for the July-September period in 1968. After a final decree was entered in the court below dismissing the complaint, this appeal was filed. We affirm.

The gravamen of the plaintiffs' complaint was that the challenged field and bus registration schedule listed the preponderance of registration dates in places and areas tending to favor registration in the Democratic party; that it was therefore discriminatory and constituted a politically motivated attempt on the part of the Commissioners to influence a larger number of registrations in the Democratic party, and thereby unfairly influenced the results of the 1968 election. As the court below correctly stated, the only function of the courts in evaluating such a complaint is to ascertain if the governmental agency entrusted with the responsibility involved acted arbitrarily or in bad faith, or failed to follow required statutory procedures, or violated any constitutional safeguards. See Crawford v. Redevelopment Authority, 418 Pa. 549, 211 A.2d

[ 434 Pa. Page 417866]

(1965). After considering all of the pertinent facts disclosed by the evidence presented at the hearing before the chancellor, the court concluded that no arbitrary conduct or bad faith on the part of the Commissioners had been established. For the purposes of this decision, we deem it necessary to determine neither the correctness of this conclusion, nor the question of mootness.

A close study of the record discloses that the plaintiffs' basic criticism of the challenged registration program was that it did not include a sufficient number of field and bus registration dates in areas which might favor registrations in the Republican party. It was not contended, nor was any evidence offered to establish, that the registrations in the places scheduled were unreasonable or unwarranted. What the plaintiffs really sought to attain were additional registration dates in some areas. Assuming that this quest was justified, still we conclude that the lower court did not abuse its discretion or commit an error of law in dismissing the instant action.

As noted before, the challenged program had been in progress for several weeks before this action was instituted. Furthermore, only a period of approximately three weeks remained before the program would necessarily cease. Moreover, the plaintiff, Devlin, who is Chairman of the City Committee of the Republican party in Philadelphia, admittedly received the list of the scheduled field and bus registration sites at least three weeks before July 15, 1968. Despite this knowledge, he attempted no ...


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