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BETHLEHEM MINES CORPORATION v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/28/73)

decided: December 28, 1973.

BETHLEHEM MINES CORPORATION, PETITIONER,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, MAURICE K. GODDARD, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND ROBERT BROUGHTON, PAUL E. WATERS AND GERALD H. GOLDBERG, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MEMBERS OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL HEARING BOARD, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, RESPONDENTS



Original jurisdiction in case of Bethlehem Mines Corporation, Petitioner, v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Maurice K. Goddard, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and Robert Broughton, Paul E. Waters and Gerald H. Goldberg, individually and as members of the Environmental Hearing Board, Department of Environmental Resources, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Respondents.

COUNSEL

Harold R. Schmidt, Henry McC. Ingram, Lawrence A. Demase, Philip C. Wolf, and Rose, Schmidt and Dixon, for petitioner.

Marvin A. Fein, Assistant Attorney General, and Barbara H. Brandon, Assistant Attorney General, for respondents.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.

Author: Bowman

[ 11 Pa. Commw. Page 376]

This case arises from a petition for a writ of prohibition filed in this Court by Bethlehem Mines Corporation (BMC) against the Department of Environmental Resources (DER).

The sole issue to be decided is whether or not this Court has the power and authority to issue a writ of prohibition. The writ of prohibition is an extraordinary prerogative writ derived from the English high courts and statutorily granted to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania by the Act of May 22, 1722, 1 Sim. P.L. 131. The issuance of the writ is designed to prevent the unauthorized exercise of a lower court's jurisdiction, or abuse of jurisdiction. Schlesinger Petition, 367 Pa. 476,

[ 11 Pa. Commw. Page 37781]

A.2d 316 (1951). The writ of prohibition is not restricted to lower courts, but in addition it may issue against quasi-judicial administrative agencies. Carpentertown Coal & Coke Co. v. Laird, 360 Pa. 94, 61 A.2d 426 (1948). For a detailed history of writs of prohibition see Akron Borough v. Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, 453 Pa. 554, 310 A.2d 271 (1973); see also 11 Standard Pennsylvania Practice 319-26.

The Supreme Court has stated in Bell Appeal, 396 Pa. 592, 598, 152 A.2d 731, 734 (1959): "The Superior Court derives all of its jurisdiction and powers from statute. [Citations omitted.] Hence, no right of appellate review exists in that court in any instance except it be expressly authorized by statute. Particularly significant is the fact that the Superior Court does not possess the powers of the Court of King's Bench. [Citations omitted.]" (Emphasis added.)

Although constitutionally created the Commonwealth Court possesses no constitutionally conferred jurisdiction or power and has only such jurisdiction as shall be provided by statutory law. Pa. Const. art. V, ยง 4.

Since the Commonwealth Court derives its jurisdiction and powers only through statutes,*fn1 these statutes must "expressly" grant this Court the authority to issue a writ of prohibition. Absent such statutory authority the power does not exist.

The Commonwealth Court Act states in pertinent part: "The court shall have power to issue, under its judicial seal, every lawful writ and process necessary or suitable for the exercise of the ...


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