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DEBORAH A. ANASTASI v. CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION CITY PHILADELPHIA (02/25/85)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: February 25, 1985.

DEBORAH A. ANASTASI, APPELLANT
v.
CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, APPELLEE

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in case of Deborah A. Anastasi v. Civil Service Commission City of Philadelphia, No. 3125 September Term, 1983.

COUNSEL

Kenneth D. Freeman, with him, Kip D. Denega, Jr., and S. Jay Sklar, for appellant.

Susan Shinkman, with her, James K. Grasty and Amy E. Katz, Assistant City Solicitor, for appellee.

Judges MacPhail, Colins and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Judge Colins dissents. This decision was reached prior to the resignation of Judge Williams, Jr.

Author: Macphail

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 7]

Deborah A. Anastasi (Appellant) appeals here from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County affirming the decision of the Civil Service Commission of Philadelphia (Commission) discharging Appellant from her position as a police officer due to a permanent and partial disability.

Appellant, a recent inductee in the Philadelphia police force, had been seeing a lay therapist prior to her appointment to the police force to explore problems she was experiencing in her personal relationships.

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 8]

On July 23, 1982, Appellant threatened to commit suicide.*fn1 At her therapist's insistence, Appellant voluntarily committed herself to the Lankenau Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.*fn2 Three days later, against the advice of her attending physician, Appellant signed herself out of the hospital.

Upon Appellant's release from the hospital, Appellant was instructed to see the Municipal Medical Director, John M. Lawlor, M.D. At the request of Dr. Lawlor, Appellant's psychiatrist, Dr. Alfred S. Roberts (not her lay therapist) submitted a letter of his evaluation of Appellant. Dr. Roberts determined that Appellant had experienced a "short, acute episode of depression" and indicated that Appellant could return to work as soon as Dr. Lawlor's department approved. Dr. Lawlor sent Appellant to see Dr. Paul J. Poinsard, a professor of psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College. On the basis of an extended interview with Appellant and a review of her records, Dr. Poinsard opined that Appellant did not possess the mental stability required of a police officer. In accordance with civil service regulations, Appellant was offered alternative employment.*fn3 When that offer was not pursued, she was dismissed from her position as a police officer.

On appeal to the Commission, Appellant presented the testimony of two psychiatrists who concluded that Appellant was mentally able to function as a police

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 9]

    officer.*fn4 The Commission resolved the conflicting testimony in favor of the police department, reasoning that:

It is common knowledge, both in and out of the medical profession, that psychiatry is a science where a difference of opinion is sometimes the general rule rather than the exception. In the instant case, the Commission is confronted with the opinions of three eminent specialists regarding appellant's present ability to perform the duties of police officer, despite whatever emotional or psychological deficiencies she may have manifested in the past.

Police work is perhaps among the most difficult and stressful occupations. In the instant case it is undisputed that appellant stated to other persons that she would commit bodily harm to herself, and although at the time unknown to the Police Department, appellant has had need for extensive psychological treatment.

Whether this threat was serious or only manipulative in nature is really not the issue. At the very least, it demonstrates poor judgment and a lack of candor. The Commission concludes that since it has an obligation to the general public, and since a police officer is constantly exposed to the public and is expected to exercise good judgment, protect lives and enforce the law, mental and emotional stability is

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 10]

    a prerequisite to this occupation. Under the circumstances and for all of the reasons set forth above, we find the Department acted properly and with just cause in effectuating appellant's separation under the applicable regulation.

The Commission subsequently denied Appellant's petition for rehearing and reconsideration. The trial court affirmed the Commission's order holding that the Commission's findings were supported by substantial evidence. The instant appeal followed.

Our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether the Commission's findings are consistent with each other and with the conclusions of law, and whether they may be sustained without capricious disregard of the evidence. Section 754 of the Local Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. ยง 754; Santini v. Civil Service Commission, 60 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 612, 432 A.2d 301 (1981). The Commission's findings of fact, which are supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive upon appeal; only the legal conclusions drawn by the Commission remain subject to judicial review. Foley v. Civil Service Commission, City of Philadelphia, 55 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 594, 423 A.2d 1351 (1980).

As she did below, Appellant contends that the decision of the Commission is not supported by substantial evidence.*fn5 Appellant asserts that the Commission capriciously disregarded*fn6 the opinions of the psychiatrists

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 11]

    who testified in her behalf. The thrust of Appellant's argument is that the Commission should have weighed the evidence in her favor.*fn7 It is well established that the weight and credibility of the evidence is for the Commission to measure, not this Court. Silverman v. Department of Education, 70 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 444, 454 A.2d 185 (1982). We may not weigh the evidence and substitute our judgment for that of the Commission. Civil Service Commission of Philadelphia v. Saladino, 47 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 249, 408 A.2d 178 (1979).

Appellant also contends that the penalty imposed -- dismissal -- is excessive. We disagree. Courts reviewing decisions requiring administrative discretion must determine only whether reasonable discretion was exercised and may not substitute its judgment for that of the administrative agency. Appeal of Corropolese, 55 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 55, 423 A.2d 28 (1980). The Commission need only present such evidence as is sufficient to support the conclusion that the dismissal is for good cause. Leroi, 34 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. at 196, 382 A.2d at 1263. The Commission found that Appellant did not possess the judgment and stability required of a police officer. This finding supports the conclusion that the dismissal was for good cause. We find that the Commission exercised reasonable discretion in affirming Appellant's dismissal.

Order affirmed.

Order

The order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, dated December 30, 1983, No. 3125, is hereby affirmed.

[ 88 Pa. Commw. Page 12]

Judge Colins dissents.

This decision was reached prior to the resignation of Judge Williams, Jr.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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