Friday, February 15, 2013

Legislation - unlawful delegation of legis. power - due process right to a hearing

MCT Transp. v. Phila. Parking Authority – Cmwlth – 2-14-13 – en banc (39 pp.)

http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Commonwealth/out/481MD12_2-14-13.pdf
 
Statute establishing process by which licensing fees are established, 53 P.S. 5707(b), held unconstututional, because
      - unconstitutional delegation of legislative power – no legis. standards to guide or restrain setting of licensing fees by administrative body
      - lack of due process, stemming from lack of the opportunity to challenge the licensing fee decision at a hearing.

 Unconstitutional delegation
Article II, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution vests legislative power in a General Assembly.8 Legislative power is the power to make a law and, thus, the General Assembly “cannot constitutionally delegate the power to make law to any … other body or authority.” . . . . However, it can “make a law to delegate a power to determine some fact or state of things upon which the law makes, or intends to make, its own action depend.” . . . The legislature must make the basic policy choices, but it can “impose upon others the duty to carry out the declared legislative policy in accordance with the general provisions” of the statute.  In that situation, “it is the legislature which has legislated and not the administrative body.”  When conferring power on an agency to decide the facts and apply the law to a particular situation, the legislature must establish the standards for exercising that power.
We hold that Section 5707(b) is unconstitutional. The General Assembly has failed to establish standards directing the Parking Authority’s exercise of discretion in deciding how much to spend each year to regulate common carriers providing taxicab and limousine service in Philadelphia.  Additionally, the General Assembly has given the Parking Authority “no standards to guide or restrain [it] in setting fees” in any fashion whatsoever. . . . .Because Section 5707(b) lacks standards to guide the establishment of an annual budget and fee schedule, it delegates legislative power to the Parking Authority, in violation of separation of powers.
Due Process – right to a hearing
The Taxicab Companies contend that Section 5707(b) unconstitutionally deprives them of due process because it does not provide any procedure for challenging the Parking Authority’s fee schedule, either before or after its adoption. We agree. . . . The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantee due process of law before the state can deprive an individual of a protected life, liberty or property interest. . . . The right to pursue a livelihood or profession is a protected property interest that triggers procedural due process. . . . As our Supreme Court has explained, the “Constitution guarantees to those who invest their property in business enterprises that it will not be taken without due process of law.” . . . . The “essential elements [of due process] are notice and opportunity to be heard and to defend in an orderly proceeding adapted to the nature of the case before a tribunal having jurisdiction of the cause.”

The Court began with the observation that it is a “fixed principle in our law that no man shall be adjudged in person or property without notice and an opportunity to appear and be heard. To condemn without a hearing is repugnant to due process.” . Because due process applies to administrative officials, “there must be a hearing somewhere, at some stage in the proceeding, even if it be after the property itself is parted with,” in order for the agency’s action to comport with due process. Section 5707(b) requires the Taxicab Companies to pay a fee to the Parking Authority if they wish to stay in business. The fee can be excessive and confiscatory, but there is no relief to the utilities subject to such a fee. The Taxicab Companies cannot challenge the fee schedule in a hearing “at any stage in the process,” either before or after the fee schedule becomes effective. . . .  To “condemn without a hearing is repugnant to the due process clause.” . Accordingly, we hold that Section 5707(b) is unconstitutional.

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