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PEGGI M. BROWN v. HONORABLE NEWTON C. TAYLOR ET AL. (06/10/85)

decided: June 10, 1985.

PEGGI M. BROWN, APPELLANT
v.
THE HONORABLE NEWTON C. TAYLOR ET AL., APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Huntingdon County in the case of Peggi M. Brown v. The Honorable Newton C. Taylor, Larry O. Sather, Lee R. Wilson and Merle E. Steninger, the County of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, No. 81-499.

COUNSEL

Charles A. Bierbach, for appellant.

Paul J. Gelman, with him, Howard C. Taylor, Dianne L. Anderson and Charles W. Johns, for appellee, The Honorable Newton C. Taylor.

Joseph J. Bosick, Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, for appellees, Sather, Wilson, Steninger and The County of Huntingdon.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers, Williams, Jr., Craig, MacPhail, Barry and Colins. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. Judge Williams, Jr., did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Macphail

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 24]

This appeal results from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Huntingdon County*fn1 which sustained preliminary objections of defendants-appellees, the Honorable Newton C. Taylor, President Judge of Huntingdon County (appellee Judge Taylor), Larry D. Sather, Lee R. Wilson and Merle E. Steininger, County Commissioners of Huntingdon

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 25]

County and the County of Huntingdon (appellee Commissioners) and dismissed a complaint filed by Peggi M. Brown (Appellant).

Appellant's complaint states that Appellant was employed as a court stenographer by the County of Huntingdon in June of 1975. In that capacity, she worked under the immediate supervision of appellee Judge Taylor. On November 25, 1980 appellee Judge Taylor informed Appellant that her employment was being immediately terminated. The reason for the termination was never communicated to Appellant. At the time her employment was terminated, the County had in effect a Public Service Employees Code of Conduct, Ethics, and Practice (Code) which, inter alia, guaranteed county employees certain rights before being terminated. Appellant, through her attorney, contacted the County Commissioners and requested reinstatement with back pay. When that request was refused, Appellant filed the lawsuit which is the subject of this appeal.

Appellant's complaint sets forth three causes of action: 1) a violation of her constitutional right to due process under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a violation of her civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 2) an action in assumpsit alleging that she was terminated in violation of the provisions of the Code which she states was a breach of her employment contract and 3) an action in trespass alleging a breach of duty owed to her which constitutes the "tort of wrongful discharge".

Appellee Judge Taylor's preliminary objections were in the nature of a petition raising the question of jurisdiction, a demurrer to all three causes of action and a motion to strike because of violation of the rules of civil procedure. Appellee Commissioners' preliminary objections were in the nature of a demurrer

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 26]

    to all three causes of action and a motion to strike because the provisions of Section 1620 of the County Code, Act of August 9, 1955, P.L. 323, as amended, 16 P.S. § 1620 state, inter alia, that County Commissioners have the exclusive power and authority to represent the courts in collective bargaining negotiations, but that right does not affect the hiring, discharging and supervising of judicial employees by the judiciary.

The trial court, in ruling on the preliminary objections of appellee Judge Taylor held that: 1) jurisdiction of Appellant's cause of action asserted against appellee Judge Taylor was vested in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania by virtue of the provisions of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 761(a)(1) and 2) the Appellant failed to state a cause of action against appellee Judge Taylor because she failed to allege any claim of entitlement to future employment other than the Code and under prevailing law, she has no property interest in her employment. The trial court, accordingly, sustained the preliminary objections raising the question of jurisdiction and in the nature of a demurrer and dismissed the complaint as to appellee Judge Taylor.

With respect to appellee Commissioners, the trial court sustained both the motion to strike and the demurrers because Appellant failed to set forth any duty owed to her and the Code was unenforceable as to her "under the circumstances as alleged in the complaint". The ...


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