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Leach v. Commonwealth

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

June 25, 2015

Daylin Leach, Minority Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senator Representing the 17th Senatorial District, Vincent J. Hughes, Senator Representing the 7th Senatorial District, Lawrence M. Farnese, Senator Representing the 1st Senatorial District, Cherelle L. Parker, Representative for the 200th House District, Edward C. Gainey, Representative for the 24th House District, the City of Philadelphia, the City of Pittsburgh, and the City of Lancaster, Petitioners
v.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Mike Turzai, Speaker of the House of Representatives, James F. Cawley, Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Wingett Corbett, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Respondents

Argued April 15, 2015

Court of ORIGINAL JURISDICTION.

Robert L. Masterson, Philadelphia, for petitioners.

Gregory E. Dunlap, Harrisburg, and Nicholas M. Orloff, Media, for respondents.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge.

OPINION

ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge

In this original jurisdiction matter, we are confronted with a facial state constitutional challenge to Act No. 192 of 2014 (Act 192). Act 192 began as a two-page bill establishing criminal penalties for the theft of secondary metals. In the final stages of enactment, it became an act that also created a civil cause of action for a broad class of individuals and organizations seeking to challenge municipal firearm legislation, and it authorized an award of attorney fees to successful challengers in the newly-created civil action. At issue is the regularity of procedures employed by the General Assembly in enacting Act 192.

Specifically, five members of the General Assembly[1] and the Cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster (collectively, Petitioners) filed a petition for review in the nature of a complaint in equity (complaint) in this Court seeking to enjoin the Commonwealth from enforcing any provisions of or taking any action in accordance with Act 192, and to declare Act 192 unconstitutional and void. Two members of the General Assembly[2] (Legislative Respondents) filed preliminary objections seeking dismissal of the suit. Petitioners subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Relief and Entry of Judgment Pursuant to Pa. R.A.P. 1532(b). For the reasons set forth below, we grant Petitioners' motion for summary relief, and we declare Act 192 unconstitutional and void. As a result, we dismiss Legislative Respondents' preliminary objections as moot.

I. Background

Through their complaint, Petitioners aver that Act 192 began as House Bill No. 80 (HB 80) and was entitled " AN ACT Amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, defining the offense of theft of secondary metal; and prescribing penalties." Compl. at ¶ 19; Ex. A. The original purpose of the bill was to create criminal penalties for the theft of secondary metals, such as copper and aluminum. Compl. at ¶ 20. The two-page bill had four subsections, a definition of the offense, grading for the offense, a penalty for repeat offenders and a definition of " secondary metal." Id.; Ex. A. According to the bill's prime sponsor, HB 80 was introduced for the purpose of combatting the theft of copper wiring and other scrap metals used in business, and the consequent disruption of business and utility supply, as well as revenue losses. Compl. at ¶ 21; Ex. B. HB 80 underwent a minor technical amendment in the House Judiciary Committee. Compl. at ¶ 23; Ex. C. The House then passed HB 80 by an overwhelming vote of 197 to 2. Compl. at ¶ 25.

HB 80 was sent to the Senate where it underwent two relatively minor amendments; however, the purpose of the bill did not change. Compl. at ¶ ¶ 26-30. It was limited to the subject of creating criminal penalties for the theft of secondary metal. Id.

While HB 80 was proceeding through the General Assembly, a distinct and unrelated bill, HB 1243, was also under consideration. Compl. at ¶ 31. In April 2013, HB 1243 was introduced into the General Assembly and referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary as HB 1243, PN 1585. Compl. at ¶ 32. The bill was entitled " AN ACT Amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in firearms and other dangerous articles, further providing for persons not to possess, use, manufacture, control, sell or transfer firearms and for Pennsylvania State Police." Compl. at ¶ 33; Ex. F. The bill included an amendment to 18 Pa. C.S. § 6111.1(f), a statute that governs the responsibility of the Pennsylvania State Police to provide " [n]otification of mental health adjudication, treatment, commitment, drug use or addiction," to federal authorities. Compl. at ¶ 34; Ex. F. The amendment made mandatory the disclosure " to the United States Attorney General or a designee, any record relevant to a determination of whether a person is disqualified from possessing or receiving a firearm[.]" Compl. at ¶ 34; Ex. F. at 4-5.

In September 2014, the House amended HB 1243, resulting in HB 1243, PN 4179, " to add the provision at the core of this dispute, an amendment to Section 6120 of the Crimes Code, 18 Pa. C.S. § 6120, granting sweeping new rights to gun advocates to enter the courts and challenge municipal legislation." Compl. at ¶ 35; Ex. G. Section 6120, entitled " Limitation on the regulation of firearms and ammunition," states that counties, municipalities and townships may not " in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth." Compl. at ¶ 36. HB 1243, PN 4179 contained several provisions that would grant gun advocates a right of action against municipalities and would mandate an award of attorney fees upon rescission or repeal of the ordinance in question or final determination. Compl. at ¶ 38. It stated:

SECTION 2. SECTION 6120 (B) OF TITLE 18 IS AMENDED AND THE SECTION IS AMENDED BY ADDING SUBSECTIONS TO READ:
§ 6120. LIMITATION ON THE REGULATION OF FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION.
* * *
(A.2) RELIEF.--A PERSON ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY AN ORDINANCE, A RESOLUTION, REGULATION, RULE, PRACTICE OR ANY OTHER ACTION PROMULGATED OR ENFORCED BY A COUNTY, MUNICIPALITY OR TOWNSHIP PROHIBITED UNDER SUBSECTION (A) OR 53 PA. C.S. § 2962(G) (RELATING TO LIMITATION ON MUNICIPAL POWERS) MAY SEEK DECLARATORY OR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF AND ACTUAL DAMAGES IN AN APPROPRIATE COURT.
(A.3) REASONABLE EXPENSES.--A COURT SHALL AWARD REASONABLE EXPENSES TO A PERSON ADVERSELY AFFECTED IN AN ACTION UNDER SUBSECTION (A.2) FOR ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
(1) A FINAL DETERMINATION BY THE COURT IS GRANTED IN FAVOR OF THE PERSON ADVERSELY AFFECTED.
(2) THE REGULATION IN QUESTION IS RESCINDED, REPEALED OR OTHERWISE ABROGATED AFTER SUIT HAS BEEN FILED UNDER SUBSECTION (A.2) BUT BEFORE THE FINAL DETERMINATION BY THE COURT.

Compl. at ¶ 38; Ex. G. In turn, the legislation defined " reasonable expenses" as follows:

" REASONABLE EXPENSES." THE TERM INCLUDES, BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO, ATTORNEY FEES, EXPERT WITNESS FEES, COURT COSTS AND COMPENSATION FOR LOSS OF INCOME.

Compl. at ¶ 39.

The legislation also contained a provision defining " person adversely affected" for standing purposes:

" PERSON ADVERSELY AFFECTED." ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
(1) A RESIDENT OF THIS COMMONWEALTH WHO MAY LEGALLY POSSESS A FIREARM UNDER FEDERAL AND STATE LAW.
(2) A PERSON WHO OTHERWISE HAS STANDING UNDER THE LAWS OF THIS COMMONWEALTH TO BRING AN ACTION UNDER SUBSECTION (A.2).
(3) A MEMBERSHIP ORGANIZATION, IN WHICH A MEMBER IS A PERSON DESCRIBED UNDER PARAGRAPHS (1) OR (2).

Compl. at ¶ 40.[3]

The House passed HB 1243 in early October 2014, and sent it to the Senate, where it was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Compl. at ¶ 42. HB 1243 ultimately died in committee. Id.

With HB 1243 stalled in committee, and the last voting day of the legislative session set for October 15, 2014, the Senate adopted Amendment A10397, which merged language from HB 1243 into HB 80. Compl. at ¶ ¶ 43-45. Following passage of Amendment A10397, HB 80 became HB 80, PN 4318, Regular Session of 2013-14, as Amended on Third Consideration, in Senate, October 15, 2014. Compl. at ¶ 46. This final version of HB 80 was given a new title:

Amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in burglary and other criminal intrusion, further providing for the offense of criminal trespass; defining the offense of theft of secondary metal; and prescribing penalties; and, in firearms and other dangerous articles, further providing for Pennsylvania state police and for limitation on the regulation of firearms and ammunition.

Compl. at ¶ 47; Ex. I.

The Senate added two new sections to HB 80, the first of which, Section 3, amended 18 Pa. C.S. § 6111.1, a provision relating to the obligations of the Pennsylvania State Police to provide notification of " mental health adjudication, treatment, commitment, drug use or addiction," and provided for disclosure of any record relevant to a determination of whether a person is not disqualified or no longer disqualified from possessing or receiving a firearm. Compl. at ¶ 48; Ex. I. The text was taken verbatim from the stalled HB 1243, PN 4179. Compl. at ¶ 48. The second of the two new sections the Senate added to HB 80, Section 4, amended 18 Pa. C.S. § 6120, adding new subsections (a.2), (a.3), and amended subsection (b) to create a new civil right of action to " a person adversely affected" by certain ordinances, regulations, rules, practices, or other actions promulgated or enforced by a county, municipality, or township and to grant standing in the courts of the Commonwealth to bring the new civil action to individuals eligible to own a firearm and to " membership organizations" with even just a single such eligible member. Compl. at ¶ 49. Except for the correction of the word " paragraphs" to " paragraph," the text of this section is identical to the text included in Section 2 of the stalled HB 1243, PN 4179. Id.

As amended, HB 80's contents included legislation relating to:

(a) Criminal penalties for theft of secondary metal (Compl., Ex. I at 1-4);
(b) Disclosure and expungement of mental health records by the Pennsylvania State ...

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