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HARRISBURG SCHOOL DISTRICT v. HARRISBURG EDUCATION ASSOCIATION ET AL. (11/10/77)

decided: November 10, 1977.

HARRISBURG SCHOOL DISTRICT
v.
HARRISBURG EDUCATION ASSOCIATION ET AL., APPELLANTS



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County in case of Harrisburg School District v. Harrisburg Education Association and Pennsylvania State Education Association, unincorporated associations; and Robert Minnich, Robert L. Allen, Harold E. Morrison, Jr., and Janet L. Esworthy, individually and as trustees ad litem; and any other persons acting in concert with them or otherwise participating in their aid, No. 3571-1976.

COUNSEL

Thomas W. Scott, with him Killian & Gephart, for appellants.

Miles J. Gibbons, Jr., with him Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, for appellees.

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

Author: Rogers

[ 32 Pa. Commw. Page 350]

The Harrisburg Education Association and the Pennsylvania State Education Association,*fn1 labor unions, have appealed an order of the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas entered in a suit by the Harrisburg School District enjoining striking teachers, members of the unions, from picketing the residences of members of the School Board. No school board member has been a party to this lawsuit.

During a teachers strike while collective bargaining negotiations were being conducted, teachers picketed the homes of the District's nine school board members. On October 22, 1976, the District sued in equity seeking preliminary and permanent relief of injunction of the residential picketing. The same day the court below granted an ex parte preliminary injunction. On October 27, 1976, the defendants requested a final hearing; and in addition filed preliminary objections asserting that the District lacked standing to assert the school board members' constitutional rights to privacy in their homes, that the lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear and decide issues presented by the District because the Pennsylvania Employe Relations Act*fn2 provides an adequate statutory remedy, and that the District's complaint failed to state a cause of action. The court conducted an evidentiary hearing on October 28, 1976, after which it dismissed the defendants' preliminary objections and issued a decree permanently enjoining the picketing of the residences of school board members. We will reverse this order.

Since we conclude that the Harrisburg School District

[ 32 Pa. Commw. Page 351]

    lacks standing to bring this suit and that the court below erred in not so ruling, we do not reach the interesting question of whether the picketing of the residences of public officers by public employes is, in Pennsylvania, to be held to be a protected right of speech or unlawful invasion of privacy.

The District, the only plaintiff, says that the picketing constituted a violation of its school members' constitutional rights to privacy and that its, the District's, relationship with the board members is so close that it has standing to assert their rights on their behalf. We disagree.

In the recent case of Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106, 113-16 (1976), the Supreme Court of the United States thoroughly analyzed the question of a litigant's standing to assert third party constitutional rights:

Federal courts must hesitate before resolving a controversy, even one within their constitutional power to resolve, on the basis of the rights of third persons not parties to the litigation. The reasons are two. First, the courts should not adjudicate such rights unnecessarily, and it may be that in fact the holders of those rights either do not wish to assert them, or will be able to enjoy them regardless of whether the in-court litigant is successful or not. See Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 345-348, 56 S.Ct. 466, 482-83, 80 L.Ed. 688 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring, and offering the standing requirement as one means by which courts avoid unnecessary constitutional adjudications). Second, third parties themselves usually will be the best proponents of their ...


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