West Philadelphia Achievement Charter
School v. School District of Philadelphia – Feb. 16, 2016 - Pa. Supreme Court
Held: Sec. 696 of School Distress Law,
24 P.S. 6-691(c), violated Article II, sec. 1
(legislative power vested in General Assembly), because it gave power to a
non-legislative body, without establishing adequate standards of restraint on
the use of that power.
II, sec. 1 – legislative power – non-delegation
Article II, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states that
“[t]he legislative power of this Commonwealth shall be vested in a General
Assembly, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.” PA.
CONST. art. II, §1. The nondelegation
rule has been described as a “natural corollary” to this text. . . . .
The precept, which has its origins in the separation-of-powers doctrine . . . is
of early lineage, see Wayman v. Southard, 23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 1, 43 (1825) (Marshall, C.J.), and was expressed
by political theorists who influenced the framers of the Constitution. See, e.g., JOHN LOCKE, SECOND TREATISE
OF GOVERNMENT §141 (1690) (observing that legislative power “consists of the power
to make laws, not to make legislators,” and indicating, moreover, that the legislature
is not free to transfer its lawmaking powers to any other body because such power
was delegated to the legislature by the people); cf. 1 WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND *168
(1753) (remarking that a member of the House of Commons could not delegate his
vote to a proxy “as he himself is but a proxy for a multitude of other
people”). See generally BARON DE MONTESQUIEU, THE SPIRIT OF THE LAWS XI:6 (1748) (suggesting
that political liberty requires a separation of legislative, executive, and
judicial powers), quoted in THE FEDERALIST NO. 47 (James Madison).
standards – adequately defined standards
Legislative power may be delegated, so long as there has been a legislative
establishment of primary objectives or standards and the entrustment to another
entity to “fill up the details under the general [legislative] provisions[.]” .
. . . So long as adequately-defined standards andmethodologies are provided by
the Legislature, the administrative action involved may be as narrow as the
grant or denial of a license, see,
Free Phila. v. Pa. Gaming Control Bd., 594 Pa. 202,
934 A.2d 1249 (2007), or as broad as the setting and adjustment of minimum and
maximum wholesale and retail prices of a commodity to ensure fairness to
producers and consumers and to regulate the supply of that commodity. See, e.g., Rohrer v. Milk Control Bd.,
322 Pa. 257, 186 A. 336 (1936)
In the instant
case, the legislature had a salutary
goal, but the means it chose to effectuate it were overly broad,
basically carte blanche powers to suspend virtually any combination of provisions of the School
Code – a statute covering a broad range of topics. The Court’s decisions addressing the
non-delegation rule have never deemed such an unconstrained grant of authority
to be constitutionally valid. The Distress Law also lacks any mechanism to
limit the SRC’s actions so as to “protect against administrative
arbitrariness and caprice.” Tosto v. Pa.
Nursing Home Loan Agency, 460 Pa. 1, 12, 331
A.2d 198, 203 (1975); William Penn Parking Garage, Inc. v. City
of Pittsburgh, 464 Pa. 168, 346 A.2d 269 (1975) (plurality); Holgate Bros., 331 Pa. at 260, 200 A. at 675; Pennsylvanians
Against Gambling Expansion Fund v. Commonwealth, 583 Pa. 275, 331, 877 A.2d 383, 417 (2005) (“PAGE”); Blackwell v. State Ethics Comm’n, 523 Pa. 347, 359, 567 A.2d 630, 636 (1989)); Bell
Tel.v. Driscoll, 343 Pa. 109, 116, 21 A.2d 912, 915-16 (1941)).
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