No. 43 March Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania dated August 19, 1977, Docket No. 1 T.D. 1976, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, dated August 19, 1977 Docket No. 46 C.D. 1976
Louis B. Kushner, Stephen H. Jordan, Rothman, Gordon, Foreman & Groudine, P.A., Pittsburgh, for appellants.
Justin M. Johnson, Sol., Persifor S. Oliver, Jr., Asst. Sol., Bd. of Public Ed., Pittsburgh, Jerome H. Gerber, James L. Cowden, Harrisburg, for appellee.
Jerome H. Gerber, James L. Cowden, Harrisburg, amicus curiae on behalf of Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Larsen, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
On December 1, 1975, a teachers' strike began in the School District of Pittsburgh. About three weeks later, on December 22, 1975, appellee, School District of Pittsburgh, filed a complaint in equity requesting that a preliminary injunction be issued enjoining appellants, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, Local 400, American Federation of Teachers,
AFL-CIO, and its officers and members from continuing the strike. Public Employe Relations Act, Act of July 23, 1970, P.L. 563, No. 195, art. X, § 1003, 43 P.S. § 1101.1003. Hearings were conducted and on Saturday, January 3, 1976, the trial court issued a preliminary injunction. On Monday, January 5, 1976, the next scheduled school day after the issuance of the preliminary injunction, the School District filed a petition requesting that appellants be held in contempt for failure to report to work that day. Two days later, on Wednesday, January 7, 1976, a hearing on the contempt petition was held and appellants were found to be in civil contempt of the court's preliminary injunction order. The court ordered that appellants cease their strike activities and report to work on the next scheduled school day and imposed fines to be paid for each scheduled school day that appellants continued their strike activities and did not report for work. The next scheduled school day after the court issued its contempt order was Monday, January 12. (The Commonwealth Court erroneously suggested that the next scheduled school day was Thursday, January 8.)
When appellants did not report for work on Monday, January 12, and on subsequent days the court imposed fines. The total fines imposed on the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers was $105,000 covering a period of nine scheduled school days which passed before appellants returned to work upon the reaching of a settlement by the parties.
Appellants filed two appeals which were later consolidated; one from the order issuing the preliminary injunction and another from the order imposing the fines for failure to return to work. The Commonwealth Court held that the appeal from the issuance of the preliminary injunction was moot because the strike was settled on Monday, January 26, 1976, and a new collective bargaining agreement had been executed. In the appeal from the trial court's order imposing fines for contempt, appellants were denied relief; the Commonwealth Court affirming the trial court's order imposing the fines. Sch. Dist. of Pittsburgh v. Pittsburgh Federation, 31 Pa. Commw. 461, 376 A.2d 1021 (1977). We then granted appellants' petition for allowance of appeal.
Appellants have raised various issues, most of which we need not reach in view of our conclusion that appellants are correct in their contention that the order imposing the fines must be reversed because prior to Monday, January 12, 1976, the first day for which appellants were fined, the preliminary injunction had been automatically dissolved and thus there was no court order in effect on Monday, January 12, 1976.
The pivotal factor in the determination of this appeal is the trial court's denial, prior to Monday, January 12, of appellants' request that the trial court hold a final hearing on the propriety of injunctive relief. On Wednesday, January 7, 1976, at the hearing scheduled to determine whether appellants should be held in contempt, appellants submitted to the trial court a request for a final hearing pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 1531(f)(1). The following day on Thursday, January 8, 1976, the trial court denied appellants' request. This denial caused an automatic dissolution of the preliminary injunction earlier issued by the court. Pa.R.C.P. 1531(f)(1).
Under Rule 1531(f)(1) a preliminary injunction involving freedom of expression is automatically dissolved if those enjoined are not granted a final hearing within three days after submitting a demand for such a hearing. Since appellants' request for a final hearing was submitted on Wednesday, January 7, and denied on Thursday, January 8, there was ...