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CONSULTING ENGINEERS COUNCIL PENNSYLVANIA v. STATE ARCHITECTS LICENSURE BOARD AND GEORGE L. SHEVLIN (06/26/89)

decided: June 26, 1989.

CONSULTING ENGINEERS COUNCIL OF PENNSYLVANIA, L. ROBERT KIMBALL T/D/B/A L. ROBERT KIMBALL AND ASSOCIATES, AND SANDERS AND THOMAS, INC., APPELLANTS,
v.
THE STATE ARCHITECTS LICENSURE BOARD AND GEORGE L. SHEVLIN, COMMISSIONER OF PROFESSIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL AFFAIRS, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania dated December 9, 1988, No. 1468 C.D. 1988. Pa. Commw.Ct. , Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. McDermott, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Larsen, J., files a dissenting opinion.

Author: Flaherty

[ 522 Pa. Page 206]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an appeal from an order of the Commonwealth Court which upheld the validity of a regulation issued by the State Architects Licensure Board (Board). Consulting Engineers Council v. State Architects Licensure Bd., 121 Pa. Commw. 595, 551 A.2d 380 (1988). Appellants are various engineering firms and a trade association representing numerous consulting engineering firms, all of which sought to have the regulation declared invalid because it restricts engineering firms from offering architectural services to the public. The Commonwealth Court granted a motion by the Board for summary judgment. We affirm.

The sole issue presented is whether the Board's regulation at 49 Pa.Code § 9.165 is invalid as being in conflict with Section 13 of the Architects Licensure Law, Act of December 14, 1982, P.L. 1227, 63 P.S. § 34.13. A regulation cannot be upheld if it is contrary to the statute under which it was promulgated. See Pelton v. Department of Public Welfare, 514 Pa. 323, 330, 523 A.2d 1104, 1107 (1987). The regulation at issue, which defines the circumstances under which architects can practice architecture as employees of non-architectural firms, provides as follows:

Section 9.165. Architect as employe.

[ 522 Pa. Page 207]

Nothing in this chapter may be construed to prevent the employment of an architect by a business which is not engaged in the practice of architecture as defined in section 3 of the act (63 P.S. § 34.3), if the work performed by the employed architect concerns the modification of or the origination and supervision of the design or the construction of structures, or both, which the employer intends to utilize for its nonarchitectural business Page 207} purpose. The employed architect shall be a licensee of the Board. This section does not prevent registered engineers from performing, or employing architects to perform, architectural services incidental to the practice of engineering, as provided in section 15(2) of the act (63 P.S. § 34.15(2)).

(Emphasis added).

The regulation clearly circumscribes the purposes for which an architect may be employed by a non-architectural firm. For example, an architect employed by such a firm would be permitted to design facilities to be occupied by his employer's business. But the employer would not be able to offer architectural services to the public through the architect-employee. It is this limitation upon offering architectural services to the public that appellants find objectionable, for they have been offering comprehensive engineering and architectural services to the public for quite some time. The architectural portion of these services is more extensive than what would be permitted under the regulation as being "incidental" to the practice of engineering. See 63 P.S. § 34.15(2) (engineers are permitted to perform "such services included in the practice of architecture as may be incidental to their engineering work.").

Appellants contend that the regulation is contrary to Section 13(j) of the Architects Licensure Law, which provides in pertinent part:

Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the practice of architecture by an individual as an employee of a person, partnership or corporation which is not an architectural firm, provided such individual holds a certificate to practice architecture in the Commonwealth in conformity with the provisions of this act and the architect's seal is affixed to all documents prepared by him or under his personal supervision for use in this Commonwealth.

63 P.S. § 34.13(j) (emphasis added). It is argued that this provision constitutes a broad grant of authority for businesses, which are not architectural firms, to offer architectural

[ 522 Pa. Page 208]

    services to the public. If one were to focus only upon the excerpt from section 13 that appellants have cited, the argument might at first appear tenable. The argument fails, however, for it depends upon excerpting section 13(j) from the context in which it appears. Further, it ignores the essential format of the Architects Licensure Law.

The Licensure Law establishes a scheme for licensing and regulating the practice of architecture. The stated purpose of the Law is "to protect the health, safety and property of the people . . . and to promote their welfare . . . ." 63 P.S. § 34.2. It provides that "no person shall engage in the practice of architecture in this Commonwealth except in compliance with the requirements of this act." Id. To carry out the provisions of the act, the Board is empowered to establish rules and regulations. 63 P.S. § 34.6. The regulation at issue in this case addresses the types of business entities in which architects may practice.

All of section 13 of the act, rather than merely section 13(j), defines the permitted forms of architectural practice. The effect of section 13(j) can only be understood in relation to provisions found in the rest of section 13. It is an established rule that provisions of a statute are to be interpreted with reference to the context in which they appear. Philadelphia Housing Authority v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Bd., 508 Pa. 576, 586, 499 A.2d 294, 299 (1985); 1 Pa.C.S. § 1932 (statutory provisions in pari materia are to be construed ...


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