Orloff v. PennDOT - Commonwealth Court - December 18, 2006http://www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/CWealth/out/136CD06_12-18-06.pdf
In a 4-3 decision, the court held that a) there was an "unreasonable delay chargeable to PennDOT [which] led the licensee to believe that his operating privilege would not be impaired; and b) "prejudice would result by having his operating privilege suspended after such delay."
The case had been decided in the licensee's favor by the trial court, which had held that DOT had not properly proven its case by use of copies of electronic transmissions from another state, which had reported a DUI conviction to Pennsylvania. DOT appealed and the Commonwealth Court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded the case back to the trial court for consideration of several legal issues. The trial judge died and the case languished there for about 5 years until DOT sent the court a letter asking that the case be be listed for hearing, at which time the licensee raised the issue of delay.
DOT's contention that this was judicial delay for which it was not responsible was rejected. The court said that the "General Assembly placed in PennDOT the responsibility to prosecute licenses suspension cases....[and the] responsibility for moving a case forward under circumstances where it is reasonable for it to be expected to do so," in which event "the delay is attributable to PennDOT....PennDOT was responsible for taking the appropriate action to have the case heard and, absent such action to carry out its responsibility to prosecute the appeal, PennDOT is chargeable with the delay."
The court also held that the licensee had established prejudice from the unreasonable delay in that he was "able to demonstrate that he changed his circumstances to his detriment in reliance on his belief that his operating privileges would not be impaired....[T]he loss of a job or required closing of a business requiring a driver's license constitutes prejudice.....Also prejudice is established when a licensee has changed jobs to a position that requires driving as part of the new job's duties....[or] by showing the an owner changed his job duties so that a license is necessary for the financial well-being of his company."
The dissent argued that the delay was caused by the lower court and should not be attributable to PennDOT, and that the court had created an "unworkable standard for future cases where a licenses suspension is remanded to this Court or to a court of common pleas solely for reconsideration of a legal issue."