Common Pleas Court of the County of Luzerne Judges TOOLE, Jr. and MUNDY. Appealed From No. 1534-C, 1536-C and 1538-C of 1997.
Before: Honorable James Gardner Colins, President Judge, Honorable Joseph T. Doyle, Judge, Honorable Charles P. Mirarchi, Jr., Senior Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Doyle
Mark Johnson, Carmella Yenkevich and John Alberda (Objectors) appeal from separate orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County which granted the motion of three candidates for local office, Robert Warren, Anthony Kiddish and Edward Wanyo (Candidates), to Quash the Objectors' Petition to Set Aside their Nomination Petitions for the office of School Director in the Democratic primary, which is to be held on May 20, 1997. *fn1
On March 11, 1997, Robert Warren *fn2 filed a Nomination Petition for the office of School Director. The Objectors filed a Petition to Set Aside Warren's Nomination Petition on March 18, 1997, alleging that (1) Warren did not timely file his Statement of Financial Interest under Section 4(b)(2) of the Public Officials and Employee Ethics Act (Ethics Act), *fn3 and (2) that his Nomination Petition is incomplete because the Title of Office line on the "Affidavit and Loyalty Oath" was left blank.
A hearing was held before the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County on March 21, 1997, at which time Warren presented his Motion to Quash the Objectors' petition. Warren contended that the Objectors' petition must be quashed because they failed to plead that they are members of the Democratic party, and, therefore, they do not have standing to contest his Nomination Petition.
By order dated March 24, 1997, the Common Pleas Court quashed the Objectors' Petition to Set Aside Warren's Nomination Petition because they failed to plead that they "are citizens, registered to vote, and eligible to participate in the election at issue." This appeal ensued. *fn4
On appeal, the Objectors contend that Common Pleas erred in refusing to allow them to testify at the hearing that they are, in fact, citizens who are registered as Democrats and are otherwise eligible to participate in the upcoming election. The Objectors argue that the defect in their pleading should not have been fatal because they could have established by oral testimony that they had standing to challenge the Nomination Petitions.
After a thorough review of the record and relevant case law, we must agree and, therefore, reverse the order of the Common Pleas Court and remand the matter for further Disposition on the merits.
We begin by first addressing the threshold motion which Warren has presented to quash the Objectors' appeal to this Court. Warren argues that we should dismiss this appeal because (1) the Objectors did not reduce the March 24th order of Common Pleas to judgment before filing their notice of appeal and (2) jurisdiction in this matter lies exclusively with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. We reject both arguments.
Contrary to Warren's assertion, the entry of judgment was not required following the trial court's order before becoming a final appealable order. This Court has recently held that, pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 301, the only orders which must be reduced to judgment before an appeal may be taken are orders which dispose of issues raised on the basis of a motion for post-trial relief pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. No. 227.1. See Temple University of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education v. City of Philadelphia, 1997 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 195, A.2d ( Pa. Commw., No. 898 C.D. 1996, filed April 15, 1997). The order appealed from in the present appeal was not one that disposed of issues raised by a motion for post-trial relief, but was simply an order that granted Warren's Motion to Quash the Objectors' Petition to Set Aside. As such, the March 24th order was a final appealable order under Pa. R.A.P. 301. Accordingly, the Objectors did not have to reduce it to judgment before filing their appeal.
The pertinent case law involving our jurisdiction to hear this appeal is found in Egan v. Mele, 535 Pa. 201, 634 A.2d 1074 (1993), In re Elliot, 657 A.2d 132 (Pa. Commw. 1995) and In re Mancuso, 657 A.2d 136 (Pa. Commw. 1995). In Egan v. Mele, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a minor was not prohibited under the Constitution, or under any statutes or court rules, from running for or holding the office of district Justice. In so holding, the Supreme Court vacated this Court's order, noting that it has exclusive jurisdiction of appeals involving the right to public office under 42 Pa. C.S. § 722(2), which provides as follows:
The Supreme Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of appeals from final orders of the courts of common pleas in ...