Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, in case of Melissa Reichley, a minor and student, by her parent and natural guardian, Helen Wall, et al. v. North Penn School District, et al., No. 86-15062.
Frank L. Caiola, Caiola, Caiola & Gowen, for appellants.
Charles Potash, with him, Thomas F. Oeste, Wisler, Pearlstine, Talone, Craig and Garrity, for appellee, North Penn School District.
A. Martin Herring, for appellee, North Penn Education Association.
Denise A. Kuhn, Deputy Attorney General, with her, Andrew S. Gordon, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Chief Litigation Section, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for appellee, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judges Craig, MacPhail, Doyle, Barry, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 529]
Before us is an appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, dated February 20, 1987, which determined that this Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction of the within lawsuit and, accordingly, dismissed the suit.*fn1 The above-captioned Petitioners are parents of students at the North Penn School District (District) and they brought an action in the court of common pleas against the District, the North Penn Education Association (Association) and the Commonwealth requesting certain injunctive and declaratory
[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 530]
relief. The injunctive relief sought was an order compelling striking teachers to return to work. The declaratory relief sought was that Section 1003 of the Public Employe Relations Act (PERA), Act of July 23, 1970, P.L. 563, as amended, 43 P.S. § 1101.1003 (permitting public employees to strike in certain situations) be held unconstitutional. A few days after Petitioners filed their suit, the District filed an action against the Association that resulted in the grant of an injunction directing the teachers to return to work. In addition, a contract was eventually finalized in January 1987.
Preliminary objections were filed to Petitioners' complaint by both the District and the Association, alleging lack of jurisdiction in the court of common pleas, and a lack of standing on the part of Petitioners. Subsequently, after a request by the Attorney General's Office to be removed from the suit, Petitioners' counsel petitioned the lower court for such relief which was granted. There is, however, some confusion as to whether the Commonwealth was dismissed only for purposes of the injunction action, or for purposes of the declaratory judgment action as well. The Commonwealth, because the order dismissing it was captioned "Declaratory and Injunctive Relief," believed it had been completely dismissed from the case. The trial court, however, indicated in its opinion that the Commonwealth had been dismissed only in the injunction proceeding. It then heard argument on the preliminary objections and determined that the Commonwealth was an indispensable party, and, hence that jurisdiction was properly with this Court, see Section 761(a)(1) of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C. S. § 761(a)(1). Despite this conclusion, it did not transfer the case but dismissed it. See supra n. 1. Additionally, the lower court went on to decide that Petitioners lacked standing.
[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 531]
We must first determine whether the Commonwealth is an indispensable party inasmuch as such determination is a necessary element to invoking our original jurisdiction under Section 761(a)(1). Piper Aircraft Corp. v. Insurance Company of North America, 53 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 209, 417 A.2d 283 (1980). A party is generally regarded to be indispensable when its rights are so connected with the litigated claims that no relief can be granted without infringing upon those rights. Id. Further, Section 7540(a) of the Declaratory Judgments Act, 42 Pa. C. S. § 7540(a), mandates that ...