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HONORABLE W. RICHARD ESHELMAN v. COMMISSIONERS COUNTY BERKS (11/06/81)

decided: November 6, 1981.

THE HONORABLE W. RICHARD ESHELMAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THE JUDGES OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF BERKS COUNTY, 23RD JUDICIAL DISTRICT, PETITIONER
v.
COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF BERKS, ET AL., RESPONDENTS



Original jurisdiction in the case of The Honorable W. Richard Eshelman, individually and on behalf of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, 23rd Judicial District v. Commissioners of the County of Berks and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 88 and Panel of Arbitrators selected by Commissioners of the County of Berks and said District Council 88.

COUNSEL

David H. Roland, Balmer, Mogel, Speidel & Roland, for petitioner.

Alaine S. Williams, with her Jonathan K. Walters and Richard Kirschner, Kirschner, Walters & Willig, and Sandra S. Christianson, Assistant Attorney General, for respondents.

Alexander Unkovic, with him Joseph A. Vater, Jr., Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, Amicus Curiae Counsel for The Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges.

President Judge Crumlish and Judges Mencer, Blatt, Williams, Jr. and Craig. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr. Concurring Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Williams

[ 62 Pa. Commw. Page 312]

The Honorable W. Richard Eshelman, president judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County,*fn1 has filed a petition for review directed alternatively to our original jurisdiction under Section 761(a)(2) of the Judicial Code and our appellate jurisdiction under Section 763(b).*fn2 Since we conclude that the petitioner's action is cognizable under Section 761(a)(2), we need not consider the other asserted basis of jurisdiction.*fn3

Suing on behalf of himself and all the other judges of the Berks County court, the petitioner urges us to set aside a labor arbitration award or to strike therefrom various provisions alleged to be an impermissible

[ 62 Pa. Commw. Page 313]

    encroachment upon the constitutionally ordained independence of the judiciary. Named as parties respondent are the Commissioners of the County of Berks (Commissioners); the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 88, AFL-CIO (Union); and a panel of arbitrators selected by the Commissioners and the Union.

Respondent Union is the certified bargaining representative of the court-appointed employees of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County. After failing to reach an agreement by collective bargaining, the Commissioners and the Union entered into binding arbitration pursuant to Section 805 of the Public Employe Relations Act (Act 195).*fn4 Arbitration hearings were held on December 5 and December 12, 1979, with the petitioner participating by his counsel. On December 27, 1979, the arbitrators entered an award.

The award included provisions seeking to govern the discharge, demotion, suspension, and discipline of employees; employee rest periods; employee leaves of absence; employee seniority; and employee classification. The award also established a grievance procedure whereby any dispute or grievance concerning a provision of the award would be subject to the binding determination of an arbitrator selected by agreement of the Commissioners and the Union.

The above provisions are the specified targets of petitioner's challenge. He asserts that these provisions of the award violate the mandate of our State Constitution for an independent judiciary, in that they encroach upon the power of judges to hire, supervise, and discharge court-appointed employees. With reference to the ...


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