Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, in case of Amrit Lal, Individually and on behalf of others similarly situated v. Irene B. Brooks, Prothonotary of Chester County, Pennsylvania, No. 84-00824.
David H. Moskowitz, for appellant.
Stephen P. Lagoy, with him, Thomas A. Shovlin and Ellen K. Glessner, for appellee.
Judges Craig, Barry and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.
[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 382]
"Amrit Lal (Appellant) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County which sustained the preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer raised by Irene B. Brooks (Appellee) and thereby dismissed Appellant's complaint in mandamus. We affirm.
Appellee is the Prothonotary of Chester County. Pursuant to statute,*fn1 she was sworn into office on Monday, January 2, 1984. Because New Year's day fell on a Sunday that year, the holiday was observed on Monday, January 2, and so Appellee began her commission on a day when all county offices were closed. The following day, January 3, Appellee raised the filing fee for the commencement of actions in Chester County from twenty-five dollars to fifty dollars.
Appellant brought a class action against Appellee, seeking a writ of mandamus compelling Appellee to reinstate the twenty-five dollar filing fee and to reimburse those persons who had paid the fifty dollar fee for the difference between the new and old fees. Appellee filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to Appellant's complaint. The trial court sustained Appellee's preliminary objections, having determined that Appellee's action in raising the filing fee comported with the requirements of Section 21071 of the Second Class County Prothonotary Fee Act*fn2 (Section 21071),
[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 383]
and that the increased filing fee did not unconstitutionally deny Appellant access to the courts.
On appeal to this Court, Appellant contends that Appellee violated Section 21071, because she did not raise the filing fee on or before January 1 as is required by the statute, and because the fee she set did not bear a reasonable relationship to the sum sufficient to maintain and operate the office of the Prothonotary. Claimant also argues that the new filing fee, because it is in excess of the minimum required, has the effect of unconstitutionally denying him access to the courts.
The decision of whether or not to grant relief in a mandamus action is within the sole discretion of the trial court. Porter v. Board of Supervisors, North Franklin Township, 82 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 440, 474 A.2d 1241 (1984). Our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether, in reaching its decision, the trial court abused its discretion or committed error in applying the law. Id.
Initially, we determine that the trial court did not err in concluding that Appellee raised the filing fee in a timely fashion on January 3, 1984, despite the provision in Section 21071 that requires filing fees to be raised on or before January 1 of a given year. As the trial court correctly noted, Section 21071 ...