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COMMONWEALTH v. ROETING (01/16/73)

decided: January 16, 1973.

COMMONWEALTH
v.
ROETING, JR.



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Francis Roeting, Jr., No. 42 Trust Book 102.

COUNSEL

Stuart A. Liner, Assistant Attorney General, with him Anthony J. Maiorana, Assistant Attorney General, Robert W. Cunliffe, Deputy Attorney General, and J. Shane Creamer, Attorney General, for appellant.

Henry F. Gingrich, for appellee.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Mencer and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Crumlish

[ 7 Pa. Commw. Page 318]

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is here appealing an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County which reversed the suspension by the Secretary of Transportation of the operator's license of Francis Roeting, Jr., appellee. Appellee, in October 1966, was involved in an accident with an insured of the Harleysville Mutual Insurance Company of Lancaster. As a result, he executed a judgment note for Harleysville Mutual Insurance Company which contained a confession of judgment clause. The insurance company filed the judgment note in the office of the Prothonotary of Lancaster County, January 8, 1971. Certification of the judgment was forwarded to the Secretary of

[ 7 Pa. Commw. Page 319]

Transportation in April 1971, and on June 21, 1971, the Secretary suspended the operating license of appellee under the mandate of Section 1413 of the Vehicle Code (non-payment of a judgment).

An appeal was taken by Roeting to the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County.*fn1 The court below reversed the Secretary and held Section 1413 unconstitutional in that it violated Roeting's rights of equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution by suspending his license without a determination that the judgment was the result of appellee's negligent driving. We affirm.

There is no doubt that the Vehicle Code, Act of April 29, 1959, P.L. 58, as amended, 75 P.S. § 1413, mandates the action of the Secretary in suspending the appellee's license upon certification that a judgment was rendered against appellee. The question herein is whether this Pennsylvania Financial Responsibility Statute is constitutional as it is applied to appellee.

The United States Supreme Court has twice upheld the constitutionality of state financial responsibility statutes. Kesler v. Department of Public Safety of the State of Utah, 369 U.S. 153 (1962); Reitz v. Mealey, 314 U.S. 33 (1941). The Supreme Court has stated that such statutes, promulgated under the police power of the states, are not devious means of using the police power as a collecting agency for private debts, but, instead, are "intended to discourage careless driving or to mitigate its consequences by requiring as a condition of licensing the satisfaction of outstanding judgments, the posting of security to cover possible liability for a

[ 7 Pa. Commw. Page 320]

    past accident, or the filing of an insurance policy or other proof of ability to respond in damages in the future." Kesler, 369 U.S. at 158. These statutes are a use of the police power to protect against damage inflicted on the public by ...


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