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CITIZENS FOR STATE HOSPITAL v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/26/89)

decided: January 26, 1989.

CITIZENS FOR STATE HOSPITAL, DOCTOR ALEXANDER M. MUNCHAK, CHAIRMAN, VICKY WITTENBREDER, PRESIDENT OF SENIOR CITIZENS OF LACKAWANNA COUNTY, PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, ROBERT CASEY, GOVERNOR ET AL., RESPONDENTS



Original Jurisdiction in the case of Citizens for State Hospital, Doctor Alexander M. Munchak, Chairman, Vicky Wittenbreder, President of Senior Citizens of Lackawanna County v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey, Governor et al.

COUNSEL

Ronald D. Oley, for petitioners.

Michael B. Sutton, Deputy Attorney General, with him, John G. Knorr, III, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Chief, Litigation Section, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for respondents.

Judges Doyle, Palladino and Smith, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino. Judge Smith dissents.

Author: Palladino

[ 123 Pa. Commw. Page 151]

Before us in this case are the preliminary objections of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Governor of the Commonwealth, the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), and the President of the Board of Trustees of Scranton State General Hospital (collectively the Commonwealth) to a petition, in the nature of a complaint in equity, filed in this court's original jurisdiction by: Citizens for State Hospital; Dr. Alexander M. Munchak, Chairman of Citizens for State Hospital; Senior Citizens of Lackawanna County; Vicky Wittenbreder, President of Senior Citizens of Lackawanna County (collectively Citizens), seeking to have this court prevent the Commonwealth from "destroying, selling, transferring and neglecting Scranton State General Hospital" (Scranton). In accordance with the following opinion, we sustain the Commonwealth's preliminary objection that Citizens do not have standing and dismiss Citizens' petition.

Citizens first filed their complaint with this court on July 20, 1988. That complaint was not served upon the Commonwealth. On September 20, 1988, Citizens filed an "amended complaint,"*fn1 which was served on the

[ 123 Pa. Commw. Page 152]

Commonwealth on October 5, 1988.*fn2 The amended complaint was denominated a class action and requested that this court: (1) enjoin the Commonwealth from closing and eliminating Scranton and from denying Citizens the right to "enjoy" Scranton; (2) declare that the actions of the Commonwealth complained of violate the laws and constitutions of Pennsylvania and the United States; and (3) award damages, costs and attorney's fees. The Commonwealth's preliminary objections to the amended complaint include a demurrer, an objection to jurisdiction, a motion to strike, and a challenge to Citizens' standing to obtain the relief requested. Because we conclude that Citizens do not have the requisite standing, we will not address the other preliminary objections raised by the Commonwealth. In order to fully understand why Citizens do not have standing to bring this action, it is first necessary to briefly set forth the legal and factual background of the complaint.

BACKGROUND

Scranton came into existence when the Commonwealth was authorized to accept the conveyance and transfer of the Lackawanna Hospital of Scranton, to be

[ 123 Pa. Commw. Page 153]

    used as a "State Hospital for the Northern Anthracite Coal Region of Pennsylvania," by section 1 of the Act of July 18, 1901, P.L. 775. Section 1 of the Act of July 18, 1901 also directed the Governor to appoint a board of trustees to ...


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