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In re Application of Clader

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 20, 2015

IN RE: APPLICATION OF JOHN P. CLADER, TRADING AS LT INVESTIGATIONS, FOR A PRIVATE DETECTIVE LICENSE APPEAL OF: COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

Appeal from the Order Entered June 26, 2014 In the Court of Common Pleas of Pike County Civil Division at No(s): CV128-2014

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., PANELLA, J., and OTT, J.

OPINION

OTT, J.

The Commonwealth appeals from the order entered June 26, 2014, in the Court of Common Pleas of Pike County, issuing John P. Clader, trading as LT Investigations, a private detective license subject to certain restrictions. The Commonwealth contends the trial court erred in granting Clader a private detective license pursuant to The Private Detective Act, 22 P.S. § 11 et seq ("the Act") because (1) Clader is an appointed school police officer with law enforcement powers, and (2) the court had no statutory authority to grant a limited private detective license. For the following reasons, we affirm.

Clader is a school police officer, who works as Director of School Security for the Wallenpaupack School District in Pike County, Pennsylvania. On January 23, 2014, he petitioned the court for a private detective license pursuant to the Act. The Commonwealth opposed the petition, and a hearing was held on June 3, 2014. Thereafter, Clader was granted a license by the trial court, subject to the following limitation:

[T]he Petitioner, who has previously been appointed as a school police officer for the Wallenpaupack Area School District, shall not engage in any private detective business, as defined under the Act, in any matter involving school administrators, teachers, employees, officials, parents or students of the Wallenpaupack Area School District without prior written approval of the Court and notice thereof to the Pike County District Attorney."

Order and Certificate of License, 6/26/2014. This appeal followed.[1]

The Commonwealth first argues that the trial court erred because the issuance of a private detective license to Clader, an individual with law enforcement powers as part of his public employment, demonstrates a potential for abuse and is a conflict of interest. Secondly, the Commonwealth maintains that the Act does not allow the court to grant a private detective license subject to limitations. We discuss these arguments together.

At the outset, we note our standard of review is plenary. See Phillips v. A-Best Prod. Co., 665 A.2d 1167, 1170 (Pa. 1995). The question whether a school district police officer can hold a private detective license pursuant to the Act is an issue of first impression. Therefore, we look to analogous case law as a starting point.

This Court, in Commonwealth v. Centeno, 5 A.3d 1248 (Pa. Super. 2010), considered the Commonwealth's claim that "the trial court erred in granting a private detective license to appellee because a prison guard is a peace officer and so is prohibited from holding a private detective license." Id. at 1249 (quotations omitted). The Centeno Court agreed with the Commonwealth, referencing the powers of a corrections officer, as follows:

[A] corrections officer of a county corrections institution may exercise the powers of a peace officer in the performance of that person's duties generally in:
(1)Guarding, protecting, and delivering inmates.
(2)Protecting the property and interests of the county.
(3)Capturing and returning inmates that may ...

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