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OFFICIAL COURT REPORTERS COURT COMMON PLEAS PHILADELPHIA COUNTY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (06/30/82)

decided: June 30, 1982.

OFFICIAL COURT REPORTERS OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF PHILADELPHIA COUNTY, APPELLANTS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA LABOR RELATIONS BOARD ET AL., APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in case of Official Court Reporters of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Board of Judges, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County; and Court Administrator of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, No. 901 April Term, 1979.

COUNSEL

Stephen R. Bolden, with him Robert P. Style, Fell, Spalding, Goff & Rubin, for appellants.

Ellis H. Katz, with him Warren M. Laddon, James L. Crawford, Kathleen M. Quinn, and Richard Kirschner, for appellees.

President Judge Crumlish and Judges Rogers, Blatt, MacPhail and Doyle. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. President Judge Crumlish, Jr., dissents as to the standing issue only. Judge Mencer did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Macphail

[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 258]

The Association of Official Court Reporters of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (Association)*fn1

[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 259]

    has appealed from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Judge Melvin J. Levy, specially presiding. The order appealed from affirmed an order of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (Board), dated February 6, 1979.

An understanding of the complex procedural history of this case is important to the issues presented in the instant appeal. The history dates back to August 5, 1974 when the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) filed a representation petition with the Board, naming the court reporters of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County as the bargaining unit which AFSCME sought to represent. Following a hearing,*fn2 at which AFSCME and the judges of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (Philadelphia Judges) appeared as parties, the Board issued an order and notice of election in which it concluded that "the unit appropriate for the purpose of collective bargaining is a subdivision of the employer unit comprised of all court reporters." Following the election, the Board issued a nisi order certifying AFSCME as the exclusive bargaining representative for the court reporters. That order was subsequently made absolute on July 30, 1975.

President Judge Bradley of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (Philadelphia Court),

[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 260]

    acting individually and on behalf of all the Philadelphia Judges, appealed from the Board's order of certification alleging that the Board lacked jurisdiction over the representation petition because the Philadelphia Court was not a "public employer" and the court reporters were not "public employees" within the meaning of the Public Employe Relations Act (PERA).*fn3 Upon petition of the Philadelphia Court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court assumed plenary jurisdiction over the appeal and transferred the matter to this Court for disposition. In an opinion which addressed seven similar cases, this Court held that the 1st Judicial District (Philadelphia County) is a "public employer" within the meaning of PERA and that PERA was intended to apply to court-related employees such as the court reporters. County of Washington v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 26 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 315, 364 A.2d 519 (1976).

Our Court concluded:

For these reasons and those previously stated we affirm the certification (emphasis added) of the PLRB in this appeal.*fn3a

Id. at 337, 364 A.2d at 529 (emphasis in original). This Court's order provided that:

[T]he final order of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board certifying a bargaining representative for a bargaining unit comprised exclusively of court reporters of the 1st Judicial District (Philadelphia County), in which the 1st Judicial District is identified as the sole

[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 261]

    public employer, is affirmed in its conclusions of law that Act 195 includes within its provisions court reporters of the 1st Judicial District and that Act 195 is not thereby rendered unconstitutional as an impermissible interference with an independent judiciary. The final order of the Board, however, is disapproved in its conclusion of law that the 1st Judicial District is the sole public employer of court reporters, an issue not specifically before the Court in this appeal.

Id. at 343, 346 A.2d at 532 (emphasis in original).

The Philadelphia Court appealed from this Court's order to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In Bradley v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, 479 Pa. 440, 448, 388 A.2d 736, 740 (1978), the Court said:

Because no dispute exists here concerning the proper managerial representative for purposes of proceedings under Act 195, we are not called upon to decide whether appellants are to sit as the managerial representative in bargaining and representation proceedings with court reporters. We decide only that the Legislature intended Act 195 to apply to court reporters of Philadelphia and, on the present record, such application is constitutional.

Accordingly, the order of the Commonwealth Court is affirmed and the case is remanded to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

[ 67 Pa. Commw. Page 262]

After the Bradley decision was filed, the Board, allegedly acting on the remand direction set forth in the order of the Supreme Court, on August 21, 1978 ordered oral argument on "the impact of the Supreme Court's decisions regarding public employers and Page 262} managerial representatives in county government." (Emphasis added.) The order was directed to "interested parties" and posed seven specific questions to be addressed at argument. The Bradley decision was listed as one of five Supreme Court opinions to be discussed.*fn4 Oral argument was held by the Board on September 6, 1978. Both AFSCME and the Philadelphia Court apparently appeared at oral argument along with several other groups. The Association is not listed as having made an appearance.

On February 6, 1979, without further notice or hearing, the Board vacated its order of July 30, 1975, certifying AFSCME as the exclusive representative of the court reporters. The Board found that to certify a unit of court reporters would promote over-fragmentization. The Board, thereupon, vacated its prior order of certification ...


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