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COLLINS v. GESSLER (07/02/73)

decided: July 2, 1973.

COLLINS, APPELLANT,
v.
GESSLER



Appeal from order of Commonwealth Court, No. 1257 C.D. 1972, in re Arthur W. Collins, District Justice of the Peace in and for Magisterial District 32-1-10, Delaware County, Pennsylvania v. Joseph V. Gessler.

COUNSEL

Stuart S. Bowie, for appellant.

Joseph T. Labrum, Jr., for appellee.

Jones, C. J., Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Roberts

[ 452 Pa. Page 472]

This action in quo warrantor was filed by plaintiff, Arthur W. Collins, on December 18, 1972, invoking the original jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court. In his complaint plaintiff averred that he was the lawfully appointed Justice of the Peace for Magisterial District 32-1-10 in Delaware County. He further averred that neither the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County nor the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had the power to "appoint" defendant, Joseph V. Gessler, as District Justice of the Peace for Magisterial District

[ 452 Pa. Page 47332]

-1-10, and that defendant was serving as District Justice of that district without lawful authority.

The facts providing the impetus for this controversy follow: Prior to July 10, 1972, William J. Getty, Jr. was the District Justice of the Peace for Magisterial District 32-1-10 in Delaware County, which included the Borough of Swarthmore and the Township of Nether Providence. On July 10, 1972, the Supreme Court ordered District Justice Getty removed from office pursuant to Article V, Section 18(d) of the Constitution of Pennsylvania. Thereafter, in an order dated October 27, 1972, the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County abolished the neighboring Magisterial District 32-2-9 (the Borough of Media) and merged that district with the former District 32-1-10, thereby creating a new consolidated district which it labelled 32-1-10.*fn1 Defendant,

[ 452 Pa. Page 474]

Gessler, who had been the District Justice of the Peace for the former District 32-2-9 was designated by the Common Pleas Court's Order to serve as the District Justice for the newly merged District 32-1-10. In an Order dated November 1, 1972, this Court approved the Common Pleas Court's Order of October 27, 1972.

Subsequently, on December 1, 1972, the Governor of the Commonwealth, apparently unaware of the court mandated substantive merger and in apparent reliance upon the numerical designation of merged District 32-1-10, appointed plaintiff to fill the office of District Justice of the Peace for that district -- newly merged.*fn2 Plaintiff thereupon, on the basis of his commission, by a quo warrantor action in the Commonwealth Court sought an adjudication declaring him "to be the lawful District Justice of the Peace in and for Magisterial District 32-1-10 and ordering Defendant Gessler to surrender possession of the offices, books, seal and records of the said Magisterial District 32-1-10 . . . ."

On January 8, 1973, defendant filed Preliminary Objections questioning the original jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court in this matter. Defendant in his preliminary objections also contended that the Constitution of Pennsylvania reposes all power and administrative authority over District Justices, Magisterial Districts, and their boundaries in the Supreme Court and that therefore defendant, ...


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