PETITION FOR REVIEW IN THE NATURE OF AN ACTION FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT AND ACTION IN EQUITY (WITH NOTICE TO PLEAD).
John M. Elliott, Karen M. Scheller, James M. White, Brian P. Kenney, Leslie E. Bowser, Baskin, Flaherty, Elliott & Mannino, P.C., Philadelphia, for petitioners.
Vincent J. Dopko, Gen. Counsel, State Ethics Com'n, Harrisburg, Laura Fredericks, Office of Atty. Gen., Philadelphia, for respondent.
Crumlish, Jr., President Judge, and Craig, Doyle, Colins, Palladino, McGinley and Smith, JJ.
[ 126 Pa. Commw. Page 149]
The general question presented here is whether a declaratory judgment proceeding is available to determine if board members of the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) are public officials subject to the jurisdiction of the State Ethics Commission under its enabling statute, Act of October 4, 1978, P.L. 883, as amended, §§ 1-13, 65 P.S. §§ 401-413. This court concludes that a declaratory judgment proceeding is properly allowable.
The DRPA -- a bi-state agency of the Commonwealth and the State of New Jersey, created by joint legislative compact*fn1 -- and two of its board members filed a petition for review in the nature of a declaratory judgment action addressed to the original jurisdiction of this court, seeking a determination as to whether or not the board members are subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission. The Commission has filed preliminary objections raising the following specific issues:
1. Is declaratory judgment relief not available because the proceeding constitutes an appeal from the order of a tribunal?
2. Is declaratory judgment relief not available because the question is within the exclusive jurisdiction of a tribunal, the Commission?
The Commission's premise is drawn from the Declaratory Judgments Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 7541(c), which lists the proceedings as to which declaratory judgment relief is not available, as follows:
(2) Proceeding within the exclusive jurisdiction of a tribunal other than a court.
(3) Proceeding involving an appeal from an order ...