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COUNTY ALLEGHENY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (11/22/85)

decided: November 22, 1985.

COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, RESPONDENT



Original Jurisdiction in the case of County of Allegheny v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

COUNSEL

Thomas M. Rutter, Jr., First Assistant County Solicitor, with him, Robert L. McTiernan, Assistant County Solicitor, and James J. Dodaro, County Solicitor, for petitioner.

Donald Minahan, Chief Deputy Attorney General, for respondent.

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

Author: Macphail

[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 113]

Allegheny County (County) has commenced this declaratory judgment proceeding against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Commonwealth) in our original jurisdiction requesting that we order the Commonwealth to provide all funds necessary for the functioning of all parts of the Commonwealth's unified court system and, specifically, all funds necessary for the functioning of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (Court). Preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer have been filed by the Commonwealth and are presently before us for disposition. We will sustain the demurrer.

[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 114]

County alleges in its petition for review*fn1 that the County expended in excess of twenty-two million dollars from its budget for personnel, facilities and services necessary for the operation of the Court. Its contention is that this expenditure of funds by the County is inconsistent with the clear language and intent of Article V, Section 1 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania and Sections 103 and 301 of the Judicial Code (Code), 42 Pa. C.S. ยงยง 103 and 301, which provide that there shall be a unified court system in Pennsylvania. The County's position, as we understand it, is that there cannot be a unified court system when the counties must fund the county courts*fn2 in that system.

By virtue of the fact that it does provide the financial support for the Court, the County notes that there has been much litigation to resolve the questions of who determines the number and compensation of employees necessary for the proper functioning of the Court, see Beckert v. Warren, 497 Pa. 137, 439 A.2d 638 (1981), who represents court employees for purposes of collective bargaining, see Ellenbogen v. County of Allegheny, 479 Pa. 429, 388 A.2d 730 (1978), and who is responsible for determining the level of funding for offices, courtrooms and other accommodations and supporting facilities.

County argues that to the extent that the provisions of the Code impose authority in and responsibility on the County and the County Salary Board for matters related to the Court and its employees, the Code is in violation of Article V, Section 1 of the Constitution.

[ 93 Pa. Commw. Page 115]

In addition, the County claims that the present system of county funding of court operations violates Sections 1 and 26 of Article I of the Constitution of Pennsylvania*fn3 and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in that persons who perform identical functions in the various county court systems receive different compensation.

The Commonwealth argues that (1) the County's petition fails to present a justiciable controversy; (2) the relief sought contravenes the separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches; (3) this Court is without authority to direct the payment of ...


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