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CLIFFORD W. FLEGAL v. F. KENNETH DIXON (04/20/77)

decided: April 20, 1977.

CLIFFORD W. FLEGAL, PETITIONER,
v.
F. KENNETH DIXON, DIRECTOR, ALLEGHENY COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF ELECTIONS



COUNSEL

Donald H. Presutti, Pittsburgh, for petitioner.

F. Kenneth Dixon, pro se.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 472 Pa. Page 250]

OPINION

On November 26, 1976, a vacancy was created in Magisterial District 05-2-13 (City of McKeesport, Allegheny County) by the death of the elected District Justice. Petitioner, Clifford W. Flegal, filed nominating petitions seeking to have his name placed on the 1977 primary ballot as a candidate for this office. Respondent, F. Kenneth Dixon, as Director of the Allegheny County Department of Elections rejected these petitions because petitioner had not completed a course of instruction as required by Sections 502 and 503 of the Magisterial District Reform Act, Act of July 15, 1976, P.L. 1014, No. 204, (42 P.S. §§ 2502, 2503). Petitioner is otherwise qualified to file nominating petitions for the office of District Justice.

Petitioner then filed a Complaint in Mandamus in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County seeking to compel respondent to accept his nominating petitions. This request for relief was denied on March 4, 1977. This appeal, brought pursuant to the Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, No. 223, Art. II (17 P.S. § 211.205), followed. We reverse the orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County and the determination of the Director of the Allegheny County Department of Elections, and order that the nominating petitions of Clifford W. Flegal be accepted.

[ 472 Pa. Page 251]

The Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 5, Section 12(b) provides in part:

". . . justices of the peace shall be members of the bar of the Supreme Court or shall complete a course of training and instruction in the duties of their respective offices and pass an examination prior to assuming office. Such courses and examinations shall be as provided by law." (emphasis added).

The legislature, by the Act of July 15, 1976, P.L. 1014, No. 204, (42 P.S. § 2101 et seq.), sought to implement the provisions of article 5 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania relating to district justices. This implementing legislation is known as the "Magisterial District Reform Act." Section 502 of that Act provides:

"District justices shall complete a course of training and instruction in the duties of their offices as required by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and successfully pass an examination prior to filing a nominating petition for a candidacy in a primary election for the office of district justice, which course of training and instruction shall not exceed four weeks in duration and shall consist of a minimum of 40 hours of class instruction in civil and criminal law including evidence, procedure, summary proceeding, and laws relating to motor vehicles. The department shall make the course of instruction available at such times as determined by it and the board, so as to insure that any district justice, to be elected or appointed may qualify to assume office as soon as possible. By regulation the board shall direct the department to conduct the course at such time, at such places and in such manner as it shall prescribe. In addition to those ...


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