Monday, November 24, 2008

ripeness - delay in court review

Philips Bros. Electrical Contractors v. Turnpike Commission - November 24, 2008 - Cmwlth. Court

Held, that there was an adequately developed record and sufficiently concrete contest to rule on prospective bidder's protest filed in anticipation of solicitation of bids. The case was thus ripe for review by court.

The doctrine of ripeness arises out of a judicial concern not to become involved in abstract disagreements of administrative policies. Texas Keystone, Inc. v. DCNR, 851 A.2d 228 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004). The doctrine insists on a concrete contest, where there is a final agency action so that the courts can properly exercise their function. Id. Court rulings applying the ripeness doctrine are premised on policies of sound jurisprudence; courts should not give answers to academic questions, render advisory opinions, or make decisions based on assertions of hypothetical events that might occur in the future. Phila. Entm’t & Dev. Partners, L.P. v. City of Phila., 594 Pa. 468, 937 A.2d 385 (2007). Township of Derry v. Pa. Dep’t of Labor & Industry, 593 Pa. 480, 482, 932 A.2d 56, 57-58 (2007).

In deciding whether the doctrine of ripeness bars our consideration of a declaratory judgment action, we consider “whether the issues are adequately developed for judicial review and what hardships the parties will suffer if review is delayed.” Alaica v. Ridge, 784 A.2d 837, 842 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001)...The factors we consider under our “adequately developed” inquiry include: whether the claim involves uncertain and contingent events that may not occur as anticipated or at all; the amount of fact finding required to resolve the issue; and whether the parties to the action are sufficiently adverse. Id. Under the “hardship” analysis, we may address the merits even if the case is not as fully developed as we would like, if refusal to do so would place a demonstrable hardship on the party. Id.

However, the court held that there was no "requisite harm occasioned by delay in review...." The harms alleged pertained to the merits of the case and not to anything caused by delayed review. The "Prospective Bidder suffers no demonstrable hardship if review is delayed until the time frame set forth in the statute....[The statute] provides a complete remedy upon timely review" and the court saw "no demonstrable harm to the parties if review is delayed."