Joseph Hugh O'Donnell, Jr., Philadelphia, for petitioner.
Charles W. Johns, Pittsburgh, Howland W. Abramson, Philadelphia, for respondents.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Nix, Justice, files a dissenting opinion.
Petition Denied. Stay previously granted is vacated.
NIX, Justice, dissenting.
Petitioners are court-appointed employees of the Philadelphia Traffic Court who filed as candidates in the April 22, 1980 primary election for the office of Committeepersons. By memorandum dated March 6, 1979, President Judge Iannarelli of the Philadelphia Traffic Court, informed all employees that they would be removed from their positions unless they "cease and desist all partisan political activity." The action of President Judge Iannarelli was based upon memoranda during the month of March 1977, from Judge Barbieri, the Court Administrator of Pennsylvania, directing the employees of the Philadelphia Traffic Court to remain free from all political activity.
Petitioners assert that the directives of Judge Barbieri and President Judge Iannarelli were superseded by the recent act of the General Assembly which provides that "any employee of a court of common pleas, the Municipal Court of Philadelphia, the Traffic Court of Philadelphia . . . may run for and hold any elective office." Act of Oct. 4, 1978, P.L. 883, No. 170 § 10.
By virtue of this legislation petitions request a writ of prohibition to prevent their removal from active employment
status for filing for candidates for, actively running for, and holding if elected, the office of Committeeperson. We have approved the directives of Judge Barbieri and President Judge Iannarelli, In re Prohibition of Political Activities by Court-Appointed Employees, 473 Pa. 554, 375 A.2d 1257 (1977), and have upheld them against earlier challenges by these petitioners and other employees of the Philadelphia Traffic Court. See, In re Novalski, 478 Pa. 243, 386 A.2d 530 (1978); Ottaviano v. Barbieri, 478 Pa. 235, 386 A.2d 527 (1978).
Without stating its reasons, the Court today dismisses the petition for a writ of prohibition. I believe that the petition raises important questions that should have been addressed and that the Court's action calls into question the state of the law in this area.
This is the first attempt to seek a writ of prohibition to restrain the exercise of the administrative power of a judicial tribunal. Traditionally, writs of prohibition have been employed to correct abuses of courts' judicial power. See Carpentertown Coal and Coke Co. v. Laird, 360 Pa. 94, 61 A.2d 426 (1948). In this new day where administration has become a significant part of the Court's responsibility, it is important to determine whether or not writs of ...