Appeal from the Order December 30, 1987 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division No. 6214, November Term, 1987
Stephen W. Miller, Philadelphia, for appellants.
McEwen, Olszewski and Cercone, JJ.
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This appeal is from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, granting appellees a permanent injunction. Appellants are the incumbent management
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of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (the Society), a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation. Appellees are part of a dissident faction of Society members.
This action commenced when appellees filed a complaint in equity and motion seeking to enjoin the holding of a special meeting of the Society. The meeting, which was to be held on December 4, 1987, had been called by the Board of the Society for the purpose of amending the Society's bylaws to permit voting by proxy. Notice of the special meeting was sent by mail to the members. A letter from the Society's president accompanied eighty percent (80%) of the notices, and urged the members to attend the special meeting or, if they could not attend, to sign and return an enclosed ballot as a vote in favor of the proposed bylaw amendment. Seven hundred forty-one (741) ballots were signed and returned, of which seven hundred twenty-seven (727) were in favor of the amendment.
A hearing on appellees' motion for injunction was held on December 4, 1987, four hours before the scheduled special meeting. Judge Diaz of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ordered that the voting by ballot be stayed pending a hearing on the preliminary injunction.
The special meeting was then held on December 4, 1987 as scheduled. A quorum was present and the members present voted by division on the proposed amendment to the bylaws; in accordance with Judge Diaz' order, no ballots were counted. The results of the vote were thirty-four (34) members in favor of the proposed amendment, and eighteen (18) opposed.
Subsequent to the holding of the special meeting, on December 9 and 10, 1987, Judge DiBona of the Philadelphia common pleas court held a hearing on the appellees' motion for injunction. Appellees claimed that the ballots which were mailed to the Society members were in fact "proxies" and could not be counted. Also before Judge DiBona at this hearing was appellees' motion to hold the Society's officers in contempt of Judge Diaz' order of December 4,
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, on the basis that his order had enjoined the special meeting from taking place.
On the latter motion, Judge DiBona informed the parties that Judge Diaz had not intended to preclude the holding of the special meeting, but only to stay the counting of the ballots submitted by mail. Appellees then filed a motion for clarification of Judge Diaz' order. On January 14, 1988, Judge Diaz denied appellees' order for clarification, and stated ...