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BERNARD SNYDER v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (08/09/89)

decided: August 9, 1989.

BERNARD SNYDER, PETITIONER,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, STATE EMPLOYES' RETIREMENT BOARD, RESPONDENT



PETITION FOR REVIEW (STATE EMPLOYES' RETIREMENT BOARD).

COUNSEL

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, III, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Law Offices, Philadelphia, for petitioner.

Abbott A. Leban, Chief Counsel, Harrisburg, for respondent.

Craig, Doyle, Barry, Colins, Palladino, McGinley and Smith, JJ. Crumlish, Jr., President Judge, did not participate in the decision in this case. Colins and Smith, JJ., dissent. McGinley, Judge, dissenting.

Author: Craig

[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 102]

This appeal, by Bernard Snyder from a decision of the Pennsylvania State Employes' Retirement Board (SERB) terminating payment of his pension benefits, chiefly poses the question of whether Snyder should be deemed to have been "removed from office" as a judge under art. V, ยง 16(b) of the Pennsylvania Constitution, so as to lose entitlement to pension compensation, where Snyder left office as a result of losing a retention election after the Judicial Inquiry and Review Board (JIRB) had petitioned the Supreme Court for his removal, but before the date of the Supreme Court's decision adopting the JIRB's recommendation. This court answers that question in the affirmative.

The facts are not in dispute. Snyder served as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County from January 5, 1976 until his failure to win retention in the fall election of 1985 caused his incumbency of that office to cease as of January 5, 1986.

According to the record, Snyder attained the superannuation age of 60 on October 22, 1985, and his pension benefits then vested by age. On November 25, 1985, he purchased for his pension plan 2.344 years of military service. The JIRB, pursuant to its investigative procedures under Pennsylvania statutes and constitution, filed a petition with the Supreme Court on July 1, 1985 recommending that Judge Snyder be removed from the office of judge, on the basis of

[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 103]

    the JIRB's findings of various improprieties in his judicial conduct. In November of 1985, while the case was pending before the Supreme Court, the electors of the City of Philadelphia denied the retention of Judge Snyder in office as such, so that his term of office ended January 5, 1986.

Thereafter, on March 20, 1987, the Supreme Court adopted the JIRB removal recommendation. Judicial Inquiry and Review Board v. Snyder, 514 Pa. 142, 523 A.2d 294 (1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 829, 108 S.Ct. 100, 98 L.Ed.2d 61 (1987) (Snyder I).

The issue in this case represents another variation among a series of similar cases. In Glancey v. Pennsylvania State Employes' Retirement Board, 126 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 457, 560 A.2d 263 (1989), an equally divided en banc court affirmed the SERB's denial of Glancey's application for retirement benefits, where Glancey resigned and retired from office before the order of the Supreme Court which accepted the JIRB's removal recommendation as to Glancey and forever barred him from holding judicial office.

Even more recently, in Shiomos v. Pennsylvania State Employes' Retirement Board, 128 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 39, 562 A.2d 969 (1989), this court affirmed the SERB's suspension of the pension benefits of Thomas N. Shiomos, who had retired in 1984 but had served as a senior judge until the Chief Justice revoked that designation in November of 1986, shortly before the JIRB commenced disciplinary proceedings which resulted in JIRB filing the recommendation for Shiomos' removal from office with the Supreme Court on August 5, 1987. Pursuant to the Supreme Court's acceptance of the JIRB recommendation with respect to Shiomos, this court concluded that Shiomos was deemed in ...


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