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MARGOLIS WINES & SPIRITS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/09/82)

decided: December 9, 1982.

MARGOLIS WINES & SPIRITS, INC., APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PENNSYLVANIA LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in the case of In Re: Margolis Wines & Spirits, Inc. Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, No. 11, January, 1981.

COUNSEL

Stanton A. Berkowitz, Berkowitz & Leabman, P.C., for appellant.

J. Leonard Langan, Chief Counsel, for appellee.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 302]

This is an appeal by Margolis Wines & Spirits, Inc. (Margolis) from an order of the Court of Common

[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 303]

Pleas of Montgomery County affirming the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's (LCB) imposition of a fine against Margolis pursuant to Section 471 of the Liquor Code*fn1 (Code) for violations of LCB regulations. We affirm.

Margolis, as the holder of an LCB importer's license is a "licensed vendor" pursuant to 40 Pa. Code ยง 13.71. As such, Margolis can both sell liquor to the LCB and employ agents for the purpose of accepting special orders for liquor not otherwise stocked by LCB stores. Special liquor orders can be placed by either retail customers or LCB licensees such as bars and taverns. When such a special order is made, however, because all liquor sales in Pennsylvania must be made through LCB stores, the agent must present the order to an LCB store so as to enable it to place a formal order for the liquor sought with the appropriate licensed vendor. On July 2, 1980, Margolis, was issued a citation charging it with the falsification of certain documents pertaining to special liquor orders and ordering it to show cause why a penalty should not be imposed therefore. Following an administrative hearing on the matter, the LCB issued an order sustaining the charges and imposing a fine of $500 on Margolis. Margolis appealed the LCB's order to the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County which conducted a de novo hearing and then affirmed the LCB's penalty. The appeal to this Court followed.

It is well settled that where, as here, a party appeals a sanction imposed by the LCB pursuant to Section 471 of the Code to a court of common pleas, that court shall address the matter de novo and shall make its own findings of fact and conclusions of law. Richland Distributors Inc. Liquor License Case, 43 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 505,

[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 304403]

A.2d 153 (1979). The common pleas court has the discretion to either affirm, reverse or modify the action taken by the LCB but its determination is an independent one and not merely a review of the LCB's action. Id. The Commonwealth Court, however, in addressing such a matter on appeal, must affirm the common pleas court unless that court has committed an abuse of discretion or an error of law. Michael J. O'Connor 4th Ward Republican Club Liquor License Case, 36 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 458, 389 A.2d 222 (1978).

Margolis' initial challenge to the trial court's decision herein is that the court erred in failing either to dismiss the citation or to remand to the LCB for the filing of more specific charges. This challenge is predicated on Margolis' assertion that the citation it was issued by the LCB was so lacking in specificity as to prevent Margolis from fully understanding the nature of the charges ...


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