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decided: December 30, 1983.


No. 81-3-408, Appeal from Order of the Commonwealth Court entered April 20, 1981 at No. 721 C.D. 1980, 56 PA CMWLTH 160, Roberts, C.j., and Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Larsen, J., joins in this majority opinion and filed a concurring opinion. Hutchinson, J., filed a concurring and dissenting opinion in which Nix, J., joined.

Author: Zappala

[ 503 Pa. Page 360]


Appellant I. Raymond Kremer, a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, brought an action against Appellee, the State Ethics Commission, under the original jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court, Judicial Code, Act of July 9, 1976, P.L. 586, No. 142, 52, effective June 27, 1978, as amended, 42 P.C.S.A. § 761. Appellant challenged the validity and applicability to judges of financial disclosure requirements contained in the Ethics Law, Act of October 4, 1978, P.L. 883, No. 170, 65 P.S. § 401 et seq. The Commonwealth Court, 56 Pa. Commw. 160, 424 A.2d 968 held that the law is unconstitutional as applied to judges because such application would violate the separation of powers. Appellee appeals this holding. The Commonwealth Court rejected Appellant's contentions that the language of the law should be interpreted as not applying to judges and that the law violates the constitutional right to privacy. Appellant cross-appeals on these issues. Because there are cross-appeals, Judge Kremer, as moving party in the Commonwealth Court, is deemed Appellant here for purposes of briefing and argument, Rule of Appellate Procedure 2136.

The Ethics Law imposes certain restrictions and requirements on public employees and officials, which it defines in § 2, 65 P.S. § 402. A public employee is defined as anyone employed by the Commonwealth with responsibility for taking or recommending various types of non-ministerial action. A public official is defined as an elected or appointed executive, legislative, or judicial official of the Commonwealth

[ 503 Pa. Page 361]

    or a political subdivision. Restricted activities are set forth in § 3, 65 P.S. § 403.

Sections 4 and 5, 65 P.S. §§ 404 and 405 require public employees and candidates for office to file financial statements and detail the information that must be included therein. The required information includes occupation, interest in real estate sold or leased to the government, debts owed, sources of income, gifts and honoraria, and offices, directorships, employment and financial interest in a business. Certain information regarding members of the immediate family must also be provided.

The narrow question presented is whether the financial disclosure requirement under the Ethics Act was intended or should be interpreted as applying to judges. Because this legislation infringes upon the Constitutional power of a co-equal branch of government, the Ethics Act may not properly be applied to the judiciary.

Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the legislature may not exercise any power specifically entrusted to the judiciary, which is a co-equal branch of government, Commonwealth v. Sutley, 474 Pa. 256, 378 A.2d 780 (1977). Article 5, § 10 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania gives the Supreme Court the power to supervise the courts. It reads in relevant part as follows:

"(a) The Supreme Court shall exercise general supervisory and administrative authority over all the courts and justices of the peace . . .

(c) The Supreme Court shall have the power to prescribe general rules governing practice, procedure, and the conduct of all courts, justices of the peace and all officers serving process or enforcing orders, judgments or decrees of any court or justice of the peace, including the power to provide for assignment and reassignment of classes of actions or classes of appeals among the several courts as the needs of justice shall require, and for admission to the bar and to practice law, and the administration of all courts and supervision of all officers of the judicial branch, if such rules are consistent with this

[ 503 Pa. Page 362]

Constitution and neither abridge, enlarge nor modify the substantive rights of any litigant, nor affect the right of the General Assembly to determine the jurisdiction of any court or justice of the peace, nor suspend nor alter any statute of limitation or repose. All laws shall be suspended to the ...

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