Original jurisdiction in the case of Ann Denoncourt, Donald Tinsman, Linda T. Butler and Rudolph E. Butler, Jr. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, State Ethics Commission.
Michael I. Levin, Cleckner and Fearen, for petitioners.
Sandra S. Christianson, General Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Rogers, Blatt, Williams, Jr. and MacPhail. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Dissenting Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
In this original jurisdiction case, the petitioners*fn1 are challenging the constitutionality of the Act of October 4, 1978 (Act), P.L. 883, 65 P.S. §§ 401-413. They argue that requiring disclosure of the financial interests of a public official's immediate family, Section 5 of the Act, 65 P.S. § 405, violates the constitutional right of privacy of the family members, and that subjecting public officials to criminal penalties if such disclosures are not made, Section 9 of the Act, 65 P.S. § 409, violates their due process rights. Before us now is the petitioners' motion for summary judgment under Pa. R.C.P. No. 1035.
Concerning privacy, it is clear that the general disclosure requirements of the Act are constitutional. Snider v. Shapp, 45 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 337, 405 A.2d 602 (1979), modified and affirmed sub nom.,
State Employee's Ass'n v. Walker, 57 Ill. 2d 512, 315 N.E. 2d 9, cert. denied sub nom., Troopers Lodge No. 41 v. Walker, 419 U.S. 1058 (1974), the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a similar act against privacy attacks, stating that the constitutional right of privacy, as discussed in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) and Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is not really involved in this situation inasmuch as those cases are limited to protecting the personal, intimate details of marriage, for example, whether or not to procreate or to rear a child. See Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton, 413 U.S. 49 (1973). And to extend the rationale to the financial disclosure laws, it was said, would "debase the Griswold opinion". Walker at 524, 315 N.E. 2d at 16.*fn4 See also Montgomery County v. Walsh, 274 Md. 502, 336 A.2d 97 (1975), appeal dismissed, 424 U.S. 901 (1976) (rejecting privacy argument relying on Walker).*fn5 The Illinois Supreme Court also took notice of the obvious possibility of subverting the government employee's loyalty through gifts to a spouse, and in Walsh, the Maryland Court of Appeals stated that it is common sense and common knowledge that men have been known to conceal assets by placing title in the name of wives, sons, and brothers. While
the holdings in these cases are not controlling upon this Court, they are highly persuasive and we believe that we should concur with them.
The Act, of course, must be liberally construed in favor of disclosure. Section 1 of the Act, 65 P.S. § 401. Moreover, all statutes carry a presumption of constitutionality. Section 1922(3) of the Statutory Construction Act of 1972, 1 Pa. C.S. § 1922(3), and the petitioners have a heavy burden of showing unconstitutionality. McCoy v. State Board of Medical Education and Licensure, 37 Pa Commonwealth Ct. 530, 391 A.2d 723 (1978). We do not believe, therefore, that the petitioners have met their burden of showing the spousal reporting requirements of the Act to be an invasion of their privacy rights. The Act is reasonably aimed at achieving a laudable legislative purpose.
The petitioners next argue that the criminal penalties of Section 9 of the Act,*fn6 violate their due process rights inasmuch as they can ...