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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. NATIONAL FEDERATION BLIND AND AMERICAN BROTHERHOOD FOR BLIND (04/10/75)

decided: April 10, 1975.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND AND AMERICAN BROTHERHOOD FOR THE BLIND, INC., DEFENDANTS



Original jurisdiction in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. National Federation of the Blind and American Brotherhood for the Blind, Inc.

COUNSEL

Allen C. Warshaw, Deputy Attorney General, with him Lawrence Silver, Deputy Attorney General, and Israel Packel, Attorney General, for plaintiff.

Jerome H. Gerber, with him James L. Cowden and Handler, Gerber and Weinstock, for defendants.

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

Author: Bowman

[ 18 Pa. Commw. Page 293]

The National Federation of the Blind and the American Brotherhood for the Blind, Inc. (defendants) are "charitable organizations" within the meaning of the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act (Act).*fn1 Defendants have solicited and desire to continue to solicit contributions

[ 18 Pa. Commw. Page 294]

    from residents of Pennsylvania. The vehicle for these solicitations has been the United States mail.

On August 14, 1974, the Commonwealth, through the Attorney General, filed a complaint in equity, by which it seeks to enjoin further solicitations from Pennsylvania residents, unless and until defendants comply with the registration requirements of the Act.*fn2

On August 30, 1974, defendants filed preliminary objections, which raise several constitutional issues, as well as a motion in the nature of a demurrer. Whether these preliminary objections should be sustained, in whole or in part, is the question now before this Court.

Defendants initially challenge the jurisdiction of this Court over their persons as having been obtained in derogation of their rights to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Defendants' due process attack is twofold. First, it is asserted that the Act deprives them of due process in that it purports to regulate out-of-state charities whose only contacts with the Commonwealth and its residents have arisen via the mails.*fn3 Defendants have had neither office facilities nor agents in Pennsylvania, and they preceive their presence in this state as being too insubstantial to justify any local judicial scrutiny of their activities. With this we cannot agree.

The United States Supreme Court has formulated guidelines for determining whether the courts of a state may constitutionally obtain in personam jurisdiction over out-of-state residents.

"[D]ue process requires only that in order to subject a defendant to a judgment in personam, if he be not present within the territory of the forum, he have certain minimal contacts with it such that

[ 18 Pa. Commw. Page 295]

    the maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.' ...


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