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MARIE GUY v. ROBERT B. WOODS (03/13/87)

decided: March 13, 1987.

MARIE GUY, APPELLANT
v.
ROBERT B. WOODS, PRESIDENT OF COUNCIL; ET AL., APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of Marie Guy v. Robert B. Woods, President of Council, Clinton L. Childs, Jr., Vice-President of Council, Jean L. George, Councilman, James K. Maloney, Councilman, Louis M. Tarasi, Jr., Councilman, Charles E. Throne, Jr., Councilman, Richard E. White, Councilman, James R. Yanckello, Councilman, and Borough of Sewickley, No. GD 80-14935.

COUNSEL

Harlan S. Stone, Stone, Specter & Stone, for appellant.

Gary H. McQuone, Brucker & McQuone, for appellees.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Doyle, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Crumlish

[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 587]

Marie Guy appeals an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court order dismissing her amended petition for declaratory judgment. We affirm.

Guy, an elected member of the Sewickley Borough Council (Council) challenges the validity of Council's Rule of Government 2E,*fn1 which grants discretion to each Council committee chairman to close committee meetings to other non-committee Council members, borough officials and/or the public.

Guy complains that Rule 2E is unconstitutional and that the various committee chairmen have impermissibly excluded her from committee meetings where she is not a designated member, in violation of rights granted her by the First*fn2 and Fourteenth*fn3 Amendments to the United States Constitution, and those granted by the Constitution of this Commonwealth.*fn4 The common

[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 588]

    pleas court found that the rule was within the Council's legitimate authority to establish rules for its own governance and that it was neither discriminatory nor violative of constitutional rights.

We note at the outset that the Commonwealth's Open Meeting Law,*fn5 commonly known as the Sunshine Act, under which the Council operated when Guy instituted her action, required prior publication and open public meetings only before formal action was taken. Rule 2E, which recognized this limitation, prohibited any vote or other formal action in committee sessions. By the Act of July 3, 1986 (Act 84), the General Assembly repealed the earlier Sunshine Act*fn6 and subjected committee deliberations of Commonwealth subdivisions to open meeting requirements.*fn7 This statute did not become effective until January 3, 1987, and we presume that the Council will hereafter comply with the statute. However, because Guy confines her appeal to constitutional challenges to Rule 2E, we shall proceed to address those issues.

First Amendment

Guy contends that Rule 2E is overbroad and thus violates her First Amendment right to free speech and association by operating to chill the exchange of political ideas and expression. The Council counters that the ...


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