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WILLIAM A. JACOBY v. SUZANNE VASTINE SMITH (07/15/87)

decided: July 15, 1987.

WILLIAM A. JACOBY, APPELLANT
v.
SUZANNE VASTINE SMITH, PROTHONOTARY FOR THE COUNTY OF NORTHUMBERLAND AND COUNTY OF NORTHUMBERLAND, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County, in case of William A. Jacoby v. Suzanne Vastine Smith, Prothonotary for the County of Northumberland and County of Northumberland, No. CV-85-1008.

COUNSEL

Allen K. Neyhard, for appellant.

Charles H. Saylor, Wiest, Wiest, Saylor & Muolo, for appellee, Suzanne Vastine Smith.

G. Robert Fitzpatrick, for appellee, County of Northumberland.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judges Craig, MacPhail, Doyle, Barry, Colins, and Palladino. Opinion by Judge Colins.

Author: Colins

[ 107 Pa. Commw. Page 398]

William Jacoby (appellant) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County which dismissed his appeal from an alleged adjudication of a local agency.

For purposes of considering the motions to dismiss, the trial court accepted as true all facts alleged in the appellant's appeal. These indicated that the appellant was appointed Deputy Prothonotary by the elected Prothonotary of Northumberland County, whose term was scheduled to expire January 5, 1986; that the appellant's duties were generally routine or clerical in nature; and that, following the then Prothonotary's retirement in late 1984, Suzanne Smith (appellee) was appointed to serve as Prothonotary for the remainder of the unexpired term. Both she and the appellant sought the Republican nomination for the Office of Prothonotary in the May, 1985, primary election and, shortly after appellee won the election, she dismissed the appellant without giving any reasons for the discharge or any prior notice that his work was unsatisfactory. It was alleged that the reason for the appellant's discharge was his attempt to obtain the nomination for himself.

The appellant thereafter filed in the common pleas court an action he designated as an appeal from an adjudication of a local agency, setting forth the above facts and alleging therein that he had been dismissed because he had sought the nomination appellee had won. Asserting that the common pleas court lacked jurisdiction, the appellee moved to dismiss the matter. The trial court dismissed the matter on the basis that there had been no adjudication within the meaning of Section 101 of the Local Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 101, because the dismissal did not affect any property right possessed by the appellant. It reasoned that the appellant did not have any enforceable expectation of continued public

[ 107 Pa. Commw. Page 399]

    employment by virtue of any statute or contract. In particular, the court noted that Section 2735(a) of the Judicial Code provides that a "prothonotary may appoint and remove such deputies and administrative staff . . . as may be necessary." 42 Pa. C.S. § 2735(a). It was further noted that Section 450(b) of the County Code,*fn1 Act of August 9, 1955, P.L. 323, as amended, 16 P.S. § 450(b), pertinently provides that appointees to county offices other than elected offices are subject to removal at the pleasure of the appointing authority unless otherwise expressly provided by law.

The appellant contends that he enjoyed a property right in his position as deputy prothonotary by virtue of his tenure in office and his appointment by the appellee's predecessor. He first argues that he had a contractual right to continued employment through January 5, 1986, by virtue of his appointment by the appellee's predecessor. He asserts that such appointment had the force of law because it was made pursuant to Section 2735 of the Judicial Code, which pertinently provides: "(a) General Rule. -- The prothonotary may ...


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