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FALLS TOWNSHIP v. JAMES MCMANAMON (02/18/88)

decided: February 18, 1988.

FALLS TOWNSHIP, APPELLANT
v.
JAMES MCMANAMON, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, in the case of Falls Township v. James McManamon, No. 86-004031-12-1.

COUNSEL

Richard S. Hoffman, for appellant.

Martin J. King, for appellee.

Judges MacPhail, Barry, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry.

Author: Barry

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 505]

Falls Township appeals an order and opinion of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County which declared null and void parts of an employment contract between James McManamon and Falls Township.

On November 26, 1985 the "lame duck" supervisors of Falls Township, after dismissing the reigning police chief, appointed McManamon in his stead. The supervisors then entered into an employment contract with

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 506]

McManamon. This contract was to be in effect from November 26, 1985 to December 31, 1988 and contained a number of provisions of which the township complains.*fn1 In May, 1986, Falls Township, filed a complaint in declaratory judgment seeking to have the contract declared invalid. It is alleged that the contract is against public policy, is not supported by adequate consideration, allows McManamon to be grossly overpaid, removes control of the police force from the supervisors, leaves the township without any recourse against McManamon, and unjustly enriches McManamon.

Our scope of review in this matter is to determine whether the trial court abused its discretion. A declaratory judgment is not a matter of right, but a matter initially for the trial court's discretion. Keystone Insurance Co. v. Warehousing & Equipment Corp., 402 Pa. 318, 165 A.2d 608 (1960).

The Declaratory Judgments Act, 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 7531-7541, is broad in its scope and is to be liberally construed, but is not without its limitations. Doe v. Johns-Manville Corp., 324 Pa. Super. 469, 471 A.2d 1252 (1984). The purpose of the Act is to settle and afford relief from uncertainty and insecurity with respect to rights, status and other relations. 42 Pa.C.S. § 7541(a), Fidelity Bank v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, 498 Pa. 80, 444 A.2d 1154 (1982). The construction of documents, including written

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 507]

    contracts and leases, may properly be the subject of an action for declaratory judgment. See 42 Pa.C.S. § 7533; Girard Trust Co. v. Tremblay Motor Co., 291 Pa. ...


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