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SOUTH WHITEHALL TOWNSHIP POLICE SERVICE v. SOUTH WHITEHALL TOWNSHIP AND DONALD MACCONNELL (03/03/89)

decided: March 3, 1989.

SOUTH WHITEHALL TOWNSHIP POLICE SERVICE, APPELLANT,
v.
SOUTH WHITEHALL TOWNSHIP AND DONALD MACCONNELL, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 96 T.D. 1986, dated December 30, 1987, affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County at No. 84-E-32, dated October 30, 1986, granting Appellees' Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissing the Complaint. Pa. Commw. , Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala, Papadakos and Stout, JJ. Nix, C.j., and McDermott and Stout, JJ., concur in the result.

Author: Larsen

[ 521 Pa. Page 84]

OPINION OF THE COURT

The issue presented for our consideration by this appeal is whether appellant, the collective bargaining agent for the uniformed police of South Whitehall Township, has standing to bring an action in equity which challenges a policy instituted by their police chief, requiring a particular number of public contacts per month and imposing disciplinary sanctions for noncompliance, on the basis of Act 114, which prohibits the establishment of a quota system for the issuance of traffic citations, tickets, or any other citations.*fn1

[ 521 Pa. Page 85]

On January 29, 1982, appellee, Donald K. MacConnell, Chief of Police of South Whitehall Township, issued a memorandum to all personnel indicating that township police officers were not issuing a suitable number of traffic citations, warnings, and parking tickets. The memorandum cautioned that any officer who fell below the average number of contacts made in the preceding month would be advised that he was below the department norm. On February 8, 1983, appellee issued a second memorandum which expressed concern about the minimal number of traffic citations and DWI arrests being made by the officers, and which established a minimum number of contacts that a police officer would be required to make. These "contacts" were described as citations, warnings, and field interrogations. Failure to meet this standard would result in progressively more serious sanctions and would culminate in a letter of termination.

Averring that several police officers received letters of reprimand in their personnel files pursuant to the policy established by these memoranda, appellant, South Whitehall Township Police Service, filed a complaint in equity, on March 27, 1984, in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, seeking a declaration that the policy constitutes a quota system in violation of Act 114, and seeking injunctive relief against appellees, South Whitehall Township and Police Chief MacConnell. Appellant later amended the complaint to include, as part of the challenged policy, a memorandum issued by Chief MacConnell on December 26, 1985. This third memorandum required 25 contacts per month and gave as examples of such contacts: 1) investigation of a citizen complaint made directly to a police officer; 2) issuance of a warning or citation; 3) apprehension/contact with or arrest of a suspect or suspicious person or vehicle; 4) engagement in the abatement of a problem; and 5) submission of a complaint initiated by the officer.

[ 521 Pa. Page 86]

Appellees challenged, among other matters, the standing of appellant to bring the action in its capacity as the collective bargaining agent of the uniformed police. The trial court granted appellees' motion for summary judgment, stating that appellant could represent "the uniformed police only with respect to collective bargaining," and therefore lacked standing to pursue the litigation which was brought dehors the bargaining agreement. Opinion of the Court at 6 (Oct. 30, 1986) (emphasis in original). The trial court also noted that this result was consistent with a Commonwealth Court determination that the recipients of traffic citations issued pursuant to a quota system could not maintain a class action for declaratory and injunctive relief on the basis of Act 114. Woolston v. Cutting, 103 Pa. Commw. 217, 474 A.2d 698 (1984) (Act 114 may only be asserted as a defense by individuals subject to prosecution for traffic citations issued under quota system). Appellant filed an appeal to Commonwealth Court, which affirmed 112 Pa. Commw. 223, 535 A.2d 276. We granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal, and we now reverse.

In Franklin Township v. Commonwealth, Department of Environmental Resources, 500 Pa. 1, 4, 452 A.2d 718, 719 (1982), this Court stated:

The question of standing is rooted in the notion that for a party to maintain a challenge to an official order or action, he must be aggrieved in that his rights have been invaded or infringed. This principle was thoroughly considered in Wm. Penn Parking Garage v. City of Pittsburgh, 464 Pa. 168, 346 A.2d 269 (1975) where this court confirmed that to have standing, a party must (a) have a substantial interest in the subject-matter of the litigation; (b) the interest must be direct; and (c) the interest must be immediate and not a remote consequence.

A "substantial" interest is an interest in the outcome of the litigation which surpasses the common interest of all citizens in procuring obedience to the law. Wm. Penn Parking Garage, Inc., supra, 464 at 192, 346 A.2d at 282. A "direct" interest requires a showing that the matter

[ 521 Pa. Page 87]

    complained of caused harm to the party's interest. Upper Bucks County Vocational-Technical School Education Ass'n v. Upper Bucks County Vocational Technical School Joint Comm., 504 Pa. 418, 422, 474 A.2d 1120, 1122 (1984). An "immediate" interest involves the nature of the causal connection between the action complained of and the injury to the party challenging it, Wm. Penn Parking Garage, Inc., supra, 464 Pa. at 197, 346 A.2d at 283, and is shown where the interest the party seeks to protect is within the zone of interests sought to be protected by the ...


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