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PETER J. CAMIEL v. SELECT COMMITTEE ON STATE CONTRACT PRACTICES HOUSE REPRESENTATIVES (07/30/74)

decided: July 30, 1974.

PETER J. CAMIEL, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNTY EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF PHILADELPHIA COUNTY, PETITIONER,
v.
SELECT COMMITTEE ON STATE CONTRACT PRACTICES OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, RESPONDENT



Original jurisdiction in case of Peter J. Camiel, Chairman, Democratic County Executive Committee of Philadelphia County v. Select Committee on State Contract Practices of the House of Representatives.

COUNSEL

Morris Gerber, with him Marc D. Jonas, for petitioner.

Edward Friedman, with him Matthew F. Coppolino, Frederick L. Voigt, Stephen F. Freind, John Michael Willmann and Jane A. M. Laffey, for respondent.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Judge Crumlish, Jr. did not participate. Opinion by Judge Kramer. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Wilkinson. Judge Blatt joins in this dissent.

Author: Kramer

[ 15 Pa. Commw. Page 62]

This case was filed under the original jurisdiction of this Court as provided in Section 401(a) of the Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act, Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, 17 P.S. ยง 211.401(a). It was commenced on May 28, 1974 by the filing of a petition by Peter J. Camiel, Chairman of the Democratic County Executive Committee of Philadelphia County (Camiel) to quash a subpoena duces tecum served on Camiel by the Select Committee on State Contract Practices of the House of Representatives (Select Committee). The Select Committee answered the petition and because of the apparent urgency, the matter was specially set down for argument on June 6, 1974. The material facts are not in dispute and disclose the following history and events generating the dispute before us.*fn1

By House Resolution 98, Pr. No. 1381, adopted July 25, 1973, the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth directed a Select Committee of the House, consisting of seven members to be appointed by the Speaker, including three members of the minority party to ". . . examine, investigate and make a complete study for the purpose of informing the House of Representatives in the discharge of its constitutional legislative functions and duties of any and

[ 15 Pa. Commw. Page 63]

    all matters pertaining to: (1) the administration, activities, methods of operations, use of appropriations, use of funds and expenditures thereof, policies, accomplishments and results, deficiencies or failures, eff[i]ciency and effectiveness of State agencies responsible for the purchasing, leasing, construction, and disposal of Commonwealth supplies, properties and services; and (2) individuals, corporations, consultants, advisors, authorities and entities within or outside the Commonwealth, related to, involved in, or affecting the purchasing, leasing, construction and disposal of Commonwealth property, supplies and services . . . ."

In furtherance of its purposes, it was authorized to issue subpoenas ad testificandum and duces tecum touching matters properly being inquired into by the Select Committee subject to penalties provided by law for failure to comply, and was directed to report its findings together with its recommendations for remedial legislation or other appropriate action at the earliest practicable date.

At a meeting of the Select Committee held on May 14, 1974, subpoenas duces tecum were authorized and directed to be served upon the custodian of records of Republican and Democratic County Committees of twelve counties: Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Erie, Lycoming, Green, Fayette, Cambria, Dauphin, Allegheny, Westmoreland and Mercer.

Camiel was served with such a subpoena (dated May 14, 1974) and thereafter initiated these proceedings. This subpoena duces tecum, and apparently all such subpoenas issued, called upon the custodian of the records of the respective county political parties to produce at a designated time and place "books, documents, accounts, records, indices, tapes, logs, ledgers and any and all other data pertaining to:

"(a) all contributions received on or after January 1, 1966 through May 13, 1974, including but not limited

[ 15 Pa. Commw. Page 64]

    to, any monies, goods, services, or any other thing or things of value by the Democratic County Executive Committee of Phila. County or any other committee, group, or person operating under the authority of the aforementioned committee;

"(b) the name, and address of each of said contributors. The date, amount, and method of payment (cash, check, money order, etc.);

"(c) sale of tickets by the aforementioned committee or by any other committee, group or person operating under the authority of the aforementioned committee from January 1, 1966 through May 13, 1974, including but not limited to, dinners, luncheons, breakfasts, or roasts, or any other event sponsored by the aforementioned committee;

"(d) sale of advertisements for banquet advertising books, almanacs and any other publications produced under the authority of the aforementioned committee from January 1, 1966 through May 13, 1974;

"((c) and (d) above shall not apply to tickets or advertisements sold for events to take place on or subsequent to May 13, 1974.)"

As is wont in the legal fashion of the day, those who believe themselves to be aggrieved by governmental action seek protection under judicially declared constitutional rights citing a host of decisions as supporting their position which are countered by an equally imposing citation of decisions seemingly of an opposite view. This is both predictable and understandable for want of precision of decisional law in this field, and because of an incomprehensible reluctance of courts to declare prior decisional law overruled when a more recent decision of the same court is irreconcilable with a prior pronouncement.

This case is no exception and there have been posed several independent issues, each of which involves an asserted constitutional right or rights in Camiel supported

[ 15 Pa. Commw. Page 65]

    by decisional authority, but countered by equally impressive decisional authority which respondent asserts takes petitioner out of the protection he claims.

Camiel has presented to us three issues which we believe can be fairly summarized as follows: Should a subpoena duces tecum issued by a Select Committee on State Contract Practices of the House of Representatives directed to the Custodian of Records of the Democratic County Executive Committee of Philadelphia County be quashed (a) because the supportive House resolution is so broad, vague and indefinite as to render it unconstitutional and action taken pursuant thereto null and void, or (b) for want of a nexus between the information sought and the subject of the authorized investigation, or (c) because of arbitrary selection of persons or bodies against whom such subpoenas have issued, thereby producing invidious discrimination violative of due process and equal protection?

Although Camiel has raised real issues which may some day have to be decided by the courts, our review of the record before us and our legal research leads us to the conclusion that this case does not yet present a justiciable issue and therefore is not ripe for a decision on the merits.

Preliminarily we have grave reservations concerning the jurisdiction of this Court to entertain a petition to quash a subpoena issued by a Select Committee of the House of Representatives of our General Assembly before a citizen's constitutional rights are actually affected. We view this point to be of a very serious nature. If there is any one principle of constitutional law which supports and protects our form of government, including all of our constitutional rights, it is ...


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