Wednesday, August 16, 2006

writs of prohibition - King's Bench - Pa. Supreme Court

Mayer v. Garman - Pa. Supreme Court - August 4, 2006

Majority -
Concurring -

Exercising its "inherent King's Bench supervisory power over inferior tribunals," the state supreme court vacated the trial court's order directing that the assets of a non-party to a divorce case be frozen.

The non-party was the "paramour" of the defendant/husband divorce; she lived in Hong Kong. No original process was ever served on her. The lower court sua sponte ordered her joinder in the case, reciting an "overarching mandateā€¦to 'effectuate economic justice.' "

The Supreme Court issued a writ of prohibition against the lower court, which it determined had acted ultra vires, without compliance with the joinder rules, Pa. RCP 2251-2255, and in violation of due process principles giving potential parties formal notice and an opportunity to object to joinder. The court held that that test to apply the writ -- which is to be used with "great caution and forbearance" -- had been satisfied: there was no adequate remedy at law, and the requested relief was necessary to "secure order and regularity in judicial proceedings."

appeals - preservation of issues

B.C. v. Penn Manor School District - Commonwealth Court - August 13, 2006

"[W]hen an issue was not raised below, it will not be addresed for the first time in this court. Pa. R.A.P. 1551. To preserve an issue for review, a litigant must make a timely objection at the hearing before the lower tribunal....Furthermore, the Rules of Appellate Procedure require a petitioner to set forth the location in the record where the issue was raised and preserved below. See Pa. R.A.P. 2117(c) (requiring the statement of the case in an appellate brief to identify the place and manner in which the issues were raised and preserved below); and Pa. R.A.P. 2119(c) (requiring argument in an appellate brief to identify where the issues were raised below.)"

"commonwealth agency" - definition

Banacol Marketing Corp. v. Phila. Regional Port Authority et al. - Cmwlth. Court - Aug. 11, 2006

Plaintiff/Appellant sued the Phila. Regional Port Authority (PRPA) in common pleas court, which sustained PRPA's preliminary objections to the court's jurisdiction, finding that PRPA was a "commonwealth agency" and that Plaintiff's case should have been filed with the Board of Claims, 62 Pa. C.S. sec. 1724(a)(3). Commonwealth Court affirmed.

The court said that a "commonwealth agency" -- for jurisdictional purposes -- is one which operates on a statewide basis and is predominantly controlled by the state. In this case, the PRPA was created by the General Assembly; its members are appointed by the Governor and the leaders of the General Assembly, and thus is a "commonwealth agency." By contrast, a "local agency" operates wthin a single county or municipality and is governed in large part by that local entity.

settlement agreements - existence/effect - dispute - hearing

Brannam v. Reedy - Commonwealth Court - August 14, 2006

A dispute about the existence or binding effect of a settlement agreement must be resolved by conducting an evidentiary hearing on the points in dispute. This is the case even where there is a written agreement signed by counsel, if it is alleged that counsel lacked authority to act. It was error for the lower court to have found "facts" based on the judge's personal experience rather than on the testimony of witnesses at a hearing, even where the judge claims "intimate knowlege" of the facts as a result of a prehearing conference.