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BONNIE GROCH v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (03/14/84)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: March 14, 1984.

BONNIE GROCH, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW, RESPONDENT

Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in case of In re: Claim of Bonnie Groch, No. B-202328.

COUNSEL

Mark S. Lobhauer, for petitioner.

Richard F. Faux, Associate Counsel, with him Richard L. Cole, Jr., Chief Counsel, and Charles Hasson, Acting General Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Craig, MacPhail and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 27]

Before this Court is an appeal by Bonnie Groch (Claimant) from a decision and order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (Board) affirming a referee's denial of benefits on the grounds that Claimant was discharged from her employment for willful misconduct.*fn1 We affirm.

Claimant has not challenged the substantive merits of the Board's decision. Rather, she brings to this Court an appeal focusing on whether the Board transgressed

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 28]

    her due process rights in its handling of her appeal from the referee's decision.*fn2 Specifically, she argues that, because she was proceeding pro se in this matter up until the time of her appeal to this Court, it was incumbent on the Board to fully notify her of her right to request oral argument before the Board and to file a brief. Claimant asserts that this is especially so in light of the fact that she failed to appear at the referee's hearing and thus never had the opportunity to testify, present evidence or confront employer's witnesses.*fn3 She alleges that since no notice was given to her of her right to request oral argument and file a brief, it was therefore error, under Section 504 of the Law, 43 P.S. § 824,*fn4 for the Board

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 29]

    to render a decision on her appeal and a remand should be ordered to enable her to develop her case.

It is well settled that the essential elements of due process in an administrative proceeding are notice and an opportunity to be heard. Wojciechowski v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 47 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 116, 407 A.2d 142 (1979). In the context of a proceeding before the Board, these elements encompass the right to request oral argument, the granting of which is discretionary, and to file a brief. Sacks v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 59 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 208, 429 A.2d 136 (1981); Chambers v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 13 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 317, 318 A.2d 422 (1974). Moreover, by virtue of 34 Pa. Code § 101.21(a), a claimant appearing at the referee's hearing without counsel is entitled to assistance from the referee in the development of his case and advice as to his basic rights. Bennett v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 66 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 455, 445 A.2d 258 (1982).

In the case at bar, a review of the record reveals that Claimant was clearly advised in the referee's written opinion and order of her right to appeal to the Board. She exercised this right, utilizing the form provided for that purpose and also a six page letter itemizing her disagreements with the referee's decision. The regulations, in addressing an appeal from the referee to the Board, contain no analogue to 34 Pa. Code § 101.21(a). Nothing concerning this latter stage of the proceedings requires that an uncounseled claimant be shown any greater deference than would be afforded a claimant with an attorney, nor is there any requirement of notice other than notice of the basic right of appeal. That Claimant did not pursue her appeal in the fashion most desirable

[ 81 Pa. Commw. Page 30]

    to her is unfortunate, but any layperson choosing to represent himself in a legal proceeding must, to some reasonable extent, assume the risk that his lack of expertise and legal training will prove his undoing. Claimant was afforded the required opportunity to be heard throughout this proceeding. Her failure to avail herself of that opportunity before the referee is no cause for any remedial action on her behalf, Gutman v. State Dental Council and Examining Board, Bureau of Professional Affairs, 76 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 193, 463 A.2d 114 (1983), nor does the Board's failure to itemize the options available to her under the regulations on appeal of the referee's decision constitute procedural error.

Order

Now, March 14, 1984, the decision and order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in the above captioned matter, No. B-202328, dated December 31, 1981, is hereby affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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