Tuesday, October 27, 2009

UC - appeal - statement of objections - PRAP 1513(d) - Deal v. UCBR

Maher v. UCBR - Cmwlth. Court -

http://origin-www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/Cwealth/out/1843CD08_10-27-09.pdf

Pro se attorney claimant appealed an adverse UCBR decision to Commonwealth Court by a Petition for Review which listed the following “Objections to the Determination: 6. The determination of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review is not supported by substantial evidence. 7. The determination of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review is based on errors of law."

Majority
The Court granted the UCBR's Motion to Strike the Petition for failing to preserve any issue for the court’s review, relying on Deal v. UCBR, 878 A.2d 131 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005), Patla v. UCBR, 962 A.2d 724 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008) and Jimoh v. UCBR, 902 A.2d 608 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006), holding that a petition that merely reiterates the court's standard of review and fails to articulate specific objections to the Board’s decision does not satisty Pa. R.A.P. 1513(d), rejecting Pearson v. UCBR, 954 A.2d 1260 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008).

Rule 1513(d) requires “'a general statement of the objections to the order or other determination.' This general statement will be deemed to include every subsidiary question fairly comprised therein. Id. However, more than a restatement of our standard of review is required. Deal. We will not consider issues raised in a party’s brief when they are not sufficiently addressed in the petition for review."

Even though the appellate rules state that “[t]he statement of objections will be deemed to include every subsidiary question fairly comprised therein,” the court held, as it did in Deal, that "a petition for review under Pa. R.A.P. 1513(d) must state its objections with “sufficient specificity to permit the conversion of an appellate document to an original jurisdiction pleading and vice versa should such action be necessary to assure proper judicial disposition.” Pa. R.A.P. 1513, Note." [emphasis in opinion].

Dissent
Judge Leavitt dissented, stating that the "premise to the majority’s decision is that a petition for review must articulate specific objections to the underlying agency decision or face dismissal. That premise, however, is directly contrary to the plain language of the applicable rule of appellate procedure, PA. R.A.P. 1513, which requires only a “general statement” of a petitioner’s objections. How specific must a general statement of objections be? Because Claimant’s petition for review complied with Rule 1513, I would deny the Board’s motion to strike the petition....Rule 1513(d) could not be clearer. In an appellate petition for review, only a “general statement” of a petitioner’s objections to the order or determination is required."

"The word 'general' in this context is free from any ambiguity, and this Court may not disregard the letter of the rule. 1 Pa. C.S. §1921(b). Quite simply, 'general' does not mean 'specific;' it means the opposite of 'specific.'”

The dissent prefered the reasoning in Pearson v. UCBR, 954 A.2d 1260 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008), where the court "offered a better approach for evaluating whether a petition for review contains a “general statement” of issues. In that case, the claimant raised two issues in his petition for review: (1) “the Board failed to ‘review all the facts;’” and (2) “‘this case is not strong enough’ to withhold unemployment compensation benefits.” Pearson, 954 A.2d at 1263. Applying the proviso that “[t]he statement of objections will be deemed to include every subsidiary question fairly comprised therein,” PA. R.A.P. 1513(d), we construed the claimant’s “general statement” of issues to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence and whether the employer had sustained its burden of proof. In doing so, we looked beyond the four corners of the petition for review and noted that “[c]laimant sufficiently addresses these arguments in his handwritten appellate brief.” Pearson, 954 A.2d at 1263."

"Pearson recognizes that a petition for review should not be considered in a vacuum. Indeed, Rule 1513 requires the petitioner to attach a copy of the challenged order or determination, i.e., the adjudication, to the petition for review. By putting the 'general statement' together with the attached adjudication, 'every subsidiary question fairly comprised' can be discussed. The Pearson approach is preferable to the drastic measure of striking a petition for review on a technicality and effectively putting a litigant out of court."

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