From Casetext: Smarter Legal Research

Bell Telephone Co. v. Lewis

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Jan 2, 1934
169 A. 571 (Pa. 1934)

Summary

In Bell Telephone Company v. Lewis, 313 Pa. 374, 169 A. 571, Justice Schaffer, speaking for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, said: "That the state may not be sued without its consent is fundamental.

Summary of this case from Pentz v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Opinion

November 27, 1933.

January 2, 1934.

Judgments — Declaratory — Parties — Commonwealth — Consent — Governor — Secretary of highways — Jurisdiction of court — Discretion as to exercise — Other remedy available — Act of June 18, 1923, P. L. 840.

1. A petition for a declaratory judgment may not be maintained against the governor of the Commonwealth under the Declaratory Judgments Act of June 18, 1923, P. L. 840, nor may the secretary of highways be made a party to such a proceeding. [375]

2. The Commonwealth may not without its consent be made a party to a proceeding for a declaratory judgment. [375]

3. In declaratory judgment practice, it is a matter of judicial discretion whether or not jurisdiction will be taken of any particular case. [376]

4. A proceeding for a declaratory judgment will not be entertained where another statutory remedy has been provided in cases of similar import. [376]

Mandamus — Parties — Governor of Commonwealth — Act of May 13, 1925, P. L. 664.

5. Under the Act of June 8, 1893, as amended by the Act of May 13, 1925, P. L. 664, mandamus will not lie against the governor of the Commonwealth. [376]

Before FRAZER, C. J., SIMPSON, KEPHART, SCHAFFER, MAXEY, DREW and LINN, JJ.

Appeal, No. 8, May T., 1934, by defendants, from order of C. P. Dauphin Co., Commonwealth Docket, 1933, No. 39, in case of The Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania v. S. S. Lewis, secretary of department of highways, and Gifford Pinchot, governor of the Commonwealth. Order of court below reversed and proceeding dismissed.

Petition for declaratory judgment. Before WICKERSHAM and Fox, JJ.

The opinion of the Supreme Court states the facts.

Judgment for plaintiff. Defendants appealed. Error assigned, inter alia, was order, quoting record.

Wm. A. Schnader, Attorney General, with him John A. Moss, Deputy Attorney General, for appellants.

Arthur H. Hull, of Snyder, Miller, Hull Hull, with him William H. Lamb, for appellee.


Argued November 27, 1933.


May a petition for a declaratory judgment be maintained against the governor of the Commonwealth under the Declaratory Judgments Act of June 18, 1923, P. L. 840, 12 P. S. 831? We are of opinion that it may not be. We are also of opinion that the secretary of highways may not be made a party to such a proceeding.

The petitioner for the declaratory judgment, The Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, seeks to construct a telephone line across a bridge belonging to the State without taking out a license in the manner required by the Acts of June 1, 1931, P. L. 350, 71 P. S. 194a, and May 21, 1931, P. L. 147, 36 P. S. 2934, which require the approval of the license by the governor and permit its revocation upon six months' notice. The contention of the petitioner is that the statutory provisions requiring approval by the governor and rendering licenses revocable on six months' notice are unconstitutional as to it under article XVI, section 12, of our organic law.

In essence the proceeding is against the Commonwealth. It is the owner of the bridge. That the State may not be sued without its consent is fundamental: Constitution, Penna., article I, section 11; Collins v. Com., 262 Pa. 572. A declaratory judgment proceeding is a suit adverse in character. We think it never was contemplated in enacting the legislation authorizing declaratory judgments that there might be an order, judgment or decree against the State without its consent. To hold otherwise would be to subject the Commonwealth to all sorts of meddlesome, ill-founded litigation. Moreover, such a proceeding as this against the governor is a futility, since a judgment rendered against him would be enforceable only by mandamus and under the Act of June 8, 1893, as amended by the Act of May 13, 1925, P. L. 664, 12 P. S. 1911, the governor cannot be mandamused.

In declaratory judgment practice, it is a matter of judicial discretion whether or not jurisdiction will be taken of any particular case: Kariher's Petition (No. 1), 284 Pa. 455. Such a proceeding will not be entertained where another statutory remedy has been provided in cases of similar import: Ibid., 471; Leafgreen v. La Bar, 293 Pa. 263; Nesbitt v. Manufacturers' Casualty Ins. Co., 310 Pa. 374. Here the plaintiff has a fully adequate remedy in which to test the question which it raises, the constitutionality of the statutes, by mandamus proceedings against the secretary of highways: Piccirilli Bros. v. Lewis, 282 Pa. 328.

The order of the court below is reversed and the proceeding dismissed at the cost of appellee.


Summaries of

Bell Telephone Co. v. Lewis

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Jan 2, 1934
169 A. 571 (Pa. 1934)

In Bell Telephone Company v. Lewis, 313 Pa. 374, 169 A. 571, Justice Schaffer, speaking for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, said: "That the state may not be sued without its consent is fundamental.

Summary of this case from Pentz v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

In Bell Telephone Company of Penna. v. Lewis, 313 Pa. 374, 375, 169 A. 571, Mr. Justice SCHAFFER, speaking for this court, termed the rule fundamental.

Summary of this case from Meagher v. Commonwealth

In Bell Telephone Company of Penna. v. Lewis, 313 Pa. 374, 375, 169 A. 571, Mr. Justice SCHAFFER, speaking for this court, termed the rule fundamental.

Summary of this case from Commonwealth v. Berks County
Case details for

Bell Telephone Co. v. Lewis

Case Details

Full title:Bell Telephone Company of Penna. v. Lewis et al., Appellants

Court:Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Date published: Jan 2, 1934

Citations

169 A. 571 (Pa. 1934)
169 A. 571

Citing Cases

Mayle v. Pennsylvania Department of Highways

Philadelphia Life Ins. Co. v. Commonwealth, 410 Pa. 571, 190 A.2d 111 (1963); Williamsport Elmira R. Co. v.…

Friestad v. Travelers Indem. Co.

Act of June 18, 1923, P. L. 840, § 12, 12 Pa.C.S.A. § 842.C. H. Pitt Corp. v. Insurance Co. of North America,…