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PIEVSKY v. RIDGE

April 12, 1996

MAX PIEVSKY, Plaintiff
v.
THOMAS J. RIDGE, in his capacity as the Governor of Pennsylvania, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RAMBO

 I. Introduction

 Plaintiff Pievsky originally filed this action by order to show cause on January 23, 1996, in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting Defendant Ridge from dismissing him from his position as a Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) Commissioner. The underlying complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that Plaintiff is entitled to remain in his position as a DRPA Commissioner until the expiration of his term on December 28, 1999, and permanent injunctive relief enjoining Defendant from removing him from his post prior to that time. Because the relief Plaintiff seeks raises a question of federal law, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 Defendant Ridge removed the case to this court on the same day it was filed in state court.

 On January 25, 1996, the court held a hearing on Plaintiff's request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. At the hearing, Defendant Ridge agreed not to remove Plaintiff from his position on the DRPA until the court reached its final decision. The parties concurred that a trial would not be necessary and agreed to stipulate to the relevant facts. The court imposed a briefing schedule with regard to the legal issues in the case and conducted oral argument on March 28, 1996. This memorandum and accompanying order constitute the court's conclusions of law regarding Plaintiff's entitlement to remain as a Commissioner of the DRPA until the expiration of his term on December 28, 1999.

 II. Stipulated Facts

 The following facts have been stipulated to by the parties.

 The DRPA derives its authority from the DRPA Compact, an interstate agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey. The Compact was originally enacted by the Pennsylvania and New Jersey legislatures in 1931 and is codified in reciprocal statutes at Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 36, § 3503 (1995) and N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 32; 3-1 to 3-18 (West 1995). As required by the Compact Clause of the United States Constitution, U.S. Const. art. I, § 10, cl. 3, Congress originally consented to the terms of the Compact in 1932 and thereafter consented to amendments in 1952 and 1992. See 47 Stat. 308; 66 Stat. 738; 106 Stat. 3576.

 Article II of the Compact provides that the DRPA Commission "shall consist of sixteen commissioners, eight resident voters of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and eight resident voters of the State of New Jersey II . . . ." Compact art. II. The Compact also states:

 
six of the eight commissioners for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania shall be appointed by the Governor of Pennsylvania for terms of five years. The Auditor General and the State Treasurer of said Commonwealth shall, ex-officio, be commissioners for said Commonwealth, each having the privilege of appointing a representative to serve in his place at any meeting of the commission which he does not attend personally.
 
* * *
 
All commissioners shall continue to hold office after the expiration of the terms for which they are appointed or elected until their respective successors are appointed and qualify, but no period during which any commissioner shall hold over shall be deemed to be an extension of his term of office for the purpose of computing the date on which his successor's term expires.

 Id.

 On December 28, 1994, former Governor of Pennsylvania Robert P. Casey appointed Plaintiff as a member of the DRPA. *fn1" The commission signed by the Governor states that Plaintiff shall hold office until December 28, 1999, "and until [his] successor is appointed and qualified, if [he] shall so long behave [him]self well." (Joint Ex. 1.)

 On January 22, 1996, Plaintiff received a telephone call from Leslie Gromis, Director of Defendant Ridge's Office of Public Liaison. Ms. Gromis informed Plaintiff that Defendant was "disappointed" in his vote on January 17, 1996, on a new chairperson for the DRPA Board. Ms. Gromis further stated that if Plaintiff did not tender his resignation the next day, Defendant Ridge would make an appointment to the DRPA to replace him.

 III. Discussion

 A. The Governing Law

 The issue before the court is one of statutory construction. Do the terms of the DRPA Compact entitle Plaintiff to remain as a Commissioner of the DRPA until the expiration of his term, or conversely, do the terms of the Compact prohibit Defendant from removing him prior to that time? *fn2"

 The parties differ as to whether state or federal law governs the court's determination regarding Defendant Ridge's authority to remove Plaintiff prior to the expiration of his term. Plaintiff contends that federal law controls, although he concedes that to the extent state law is not inconsistent, the court may accord it some degree of deference. (Pl.'s Br. in Supp. at 8.) Defendant argues that although the court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, the terms of the DRPA Compact do not conflict with state law, and, therefore, the court must defer to the law of Pennsylvania in construing the Compact's provisions. The court's conclusion regarding the applicable law is consistent with the positions of both parties.

 The DRPA was established pursuant to the DRPA Compact. Congressional consent to the Compact transformed it into federal law. Cuyler v. Adams, 449 U.S. 433, 438, 66 L. Ed. 2d 641, 101 S. Ct. 703 (1981); Petty v. Tennessee-Missouri Bridge Comm'n, 359 U.S. 275, 278, 3 L. Ed. 2d 804, 79 S. Ct. 785 (1959). The court's interpretation of the terms of the Compact is, therefore, governed by federal law. Cuyler, 449 U.S. at 438; Petty, 359 U.S. at 278; State ex rel. Dyer v. Sims, 341 U.S. 22, 27-29, 95 L. Ed. 713, 71 S. Ct. 557 (1951); Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Comm'n v. Colburn, 310 U.S. 419, 427-28, 84 L. Ed. 1287, 60 S. Ct. 1039 (1940); Alcorn V. Wolfe, 827 F. Supp. 47, 52-53 (D.D.C. 1993); Yancoskie v. Delaware River Port Auth., 385 F. Supp. 1170, 1171-72 (D.N.J. 1974), rev'd on other grounds, 528 F.2d 722 (3d Cir. 1975). What is not clear, however, is to what extent the court may look to the laws of ...


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