Original jurisdiction in the case of Alfred R. Boettger v. Robert E. Miklich, et al.
E. Jerome Brose, Brose and Poswistilo, for plaintiff.
Carl Vaccaro, Deputy Attorney General, with him, LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for defendants.
Judges Rogers, Craig and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
Alfred Boettger filed a complaint in this court's original jurisdiction against Pennsylvania State Trooper Robert Miklich, Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Daniel Dunn and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, seeking money damages and injunctive relief under the Federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act, 18 Pa. C.S. § 5703, and for invasion of privacy.
Boettger's claim arises out of Trooper Miklich's placing a wiretap on Wayne Dickinson's phone in conjunction with an investigation of criminal activities suspected of Dickinson. Trooper Miklich obtained authorization for the wiretap from a deputy attorney general, and Boettger has not challenged the legality of the wiretap. Rather, Boettger complains that, as a result of intercepting calls between Boettger and Dickinson, Trooper Miklich obtained information regarding certain business dealings of Boettger, and turned that information over to the Internal Revenue Service and state taxing authorities, in violation of Boettger's civil rights, his constitutional right of
privacy, and procedures set forth in the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act.
This matter is currently before us on the preliminary objections of defendants, who urge us to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for lack of jurisdiction, arguing two reasons: (1) Commonwealth Court does not have original jurisdiction over the actions against Miklich and Dunn who allegedly are state employees, rather than state officials; (2) Commonwealth Court does not have original jurisdiction over these claims which are in the nature of trespass as to which the Commonwealth formerly enjoyed sovereign immunity.
Also, the defendants urge by way of additional objection and demurrer: (a) the invasion of privacy claim is barred by sovereign immunity; (b) a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is cognizable only against persons, and not against the Commonwealth; (c) plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action under the Civil Rights Act, the Wiretap Act, or for invasion of privacy.
The scope of Commonwealth Court's original jurisdiction is set forth at 42 Pa. C.S. § 761, which provides in part:
(a) General Rule -- the Commonwealth Court shall have original jurisdiction of all civil ...