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MARY STEEN EARLEY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (04/05/74)

decided: April 5, 1974.

MARY STEEN EARLEY, APPELLANT,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in case of Appeal of Mary Jane Earley, No. 221, 169.

COUNSEL

Judd F. Crosby, with him Michael A. Nemec, for appellant.

Darius Moss, Assistant Attorney General, with him Louis Kwall, Special Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

Author: Kramer

[ 13 Pa. Commw. Page 18]

This is an appeal by Mary Steen Earley (Appellant) from an order of the Department of Public Welfare

[ 13 Pa. Commw. Page 19]

(Department) terminating Appellant's grant of public assistance funds.

The sole issue on appeal is whether a common law marriage exists between Appellant and William E. Earley. Appellant contends that she is not married, and the Department has concluded that she is in fact married to Mr. Earley. After the Allegheny County Board of Assistance determined that Appellant was married and not entitled to further assistance, Appellant appealed, and a hearing was held before a Department hearing officer. The order of the hearing officer was unfavorable to Appellant, and it is from that order that she appeals to this Court.

Our scope of review is found in Section 44 of the Administrative Agency Law, Act of June 4, 1945, P.L. 1388, as amended, 71 P.S. ยง 1710.44. Provided the adjudication is in accordance with law and and the appellant's constitutional rights have not been violated, we must affirm the Department's adjudication if all of the necessary findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence. See Parago v. Department of Public Welfare, 6 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 16, 29 A.2d 923 (1972).

Appellant makes three contentions on appeal: (1) that the adjudication is erroneous because an agreement of marriage was not established and never existed; (2) that findings of fact in the adjudication do not adequately support the legal conclusion of a common law marriage; and (3) that the findings of fact are not supported by substantial evidence.

The Department argues that the "finding of fact" that a common law marriage existed is supported by substantial evidence. It is of some interest to note that the hearing officer never found that a common law marriage existed as a finding of fact, but rather so concluded as a matter of law. ...


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