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JOHN B. LEEDOM v. WILLIAM THOMAS (04/22/77)

decided: April 22, 1977.

JOHN B. LEEDOM, RELATOR,
v.
WILLIAM THOMAS, RESPONDENT



COUNSEL

Cadwallader, Darlington & Clark, E. Dillwyn Darlington, Feasterville, for petitioner.

Stuckert, Yates & Krewson, John J. Kerrigan, Jr., Newtown, for respondent.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Nix, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 473 Pa. Page 196]

This action in quo warrantor was commenced on February 24, 1977, invoking the original jurisdiction of this Court.*fn1 Relator John B. Leedom contends that he was duly elected to the office of district justice of the peace for magisterial district 7-2-01 and that he has been wrongfully denied his public office.

The writ of quo warrantor is granted: respondent is removed from office and relator is declared entitled to the office to which he was elected. See Berardocco v. Colden, 469 Pa. 452, 366 A.2d 574 (1976).

Opinion OF THE COURT

ROBERTS, Justice.

This action in quo warrantor was commenced in February 24, 1977, invoking the original jurisdiction of this Court.*fn1a Relator John B. Leedom contended that he was duly elected to the office of district justice of the peace for magisterial district 7-2-01 and that he had been wrongfully denied his public office. On April 22, 1977,

[ 473 Pa. Page 197]

    this Court issued an order granting the writ of quo warrantor and stating that opinions would follow.*fn2

I

The facts are not disputed. In January 1975, the office of district justice of the peace for district 7-3-01 was held by Edward E. Dougherty. His term of office was to expire on January 5, 1976. By order of this Court, dated January 13, 1975, district 7-3-01 was reclassified and redesignated as district 7-2-01, effective January 5, 1976. On February 18, 1975, the election process for the position of district justice for the newly designated district 7-2-01 was initiated by a letter from the Secretary of the Commonwealth to the Bucks County Board of Elections, notifying the Board that the office was to be filled at the November 5, 1975 municipal election and that each eligible political party was to select its nominee at the May 20, 1975 primary election.

On February 26, 1975, respondent William Thomas filed nominating petitions for the office of district justice on both the Democratic and Republican primary ballots. On March 6, 1975, relator Leedom and the incumbent district justice, Edward E. Dougherty, also filed cross-nominating petitions.

On April 23, 1975, Dougherty died. In the primary election of May 20, 1975, Leedom was nominated as the Republican Party candidate and Thomas was nominated as the Democratic Party candidate.

On June 9, 1975, the Governor nominated Thomas to fill the vacancy created by Dougherty's death. The appointment was for a term ending the first Monday of

[ 473 Pa. Page 198]

January 1978.*fn3 The Senate confirmed the nomination on June 17, 1975. On June 24, 1975, the Senate passed a resolution to recall for further consideration its communication notifying the Governor of the confirmation. The Governor did not issue a commission to Thomas at this time.

By decision of the Bucks County Board of Elections, the office of district justice remained on the ballot in the municipal election. On November 5, 1975, Leedom was elected for a six year term commencing January 5, 1976. The Board of Elections issued a certificate of election to Leedom on November 24, 1975. Nevertheless, on December 16, 1975, the Governor issued a commission to Thomas for the office of district justice expiring on the first Monday of January 1978. Thomas took office on January 5, 1976 pursuant to the commission issued by the Governor.

On January 15, 1977, this Court's decision in Berardocco v. Colden, 469 Pa. 452, 366 A.2d 574 (1976), was published in the Atlantic Reporter advance sheets. After learning of the decision, Leedom requested his commission for the office of district justice for district 7-2-01 from the Secretary of the Commonwealth. He also notified the Bucks County Board of Elections that since the office was filled in the 1975 municipal election, it should not appear on the 1977 ballot.

[ 473 Pa. Page ...


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