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Blake v. Papadakos

filed: January 8, 1992.

EDWARD J. BLAKE, HON., PRESIDENT JUDGE OF THE PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
v.
NICHOLAS P. PAPADAKOS, HON., JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; RALPH J. CAPPY, HON., JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; ROBERT N.C. NIX, JR., HON., CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; ROLF LARSEN, HON., JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; JOHN P. FLAHERTY, HON., JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; JAMES T. MCDERMOTT, HON., JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; STEPHEN A. ZAPPALA, HON., JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA HONORABLE NICHOLAS P. PAPADAKOS, HONORABLE RALPH J. CAPPY, HONORABLE ROBERT N.C. NIX, JR., HONORABLE ROLF LARSEN, HONORABLE JOHN P. FLAHERTY, HONORABLE JAMES T. MCDERMOTT AND HONORABLE STEPHEN A. ZAPPALA, APPELLANTS



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civil No. 91-04097)

Before: Becker, Greenberg and Garth, Circuit Judges

Author: Garth

Opinion OF THE COURT

GARTH, Circuit Judge:

This appeal brings before us for review an order of the District Court which enjoined the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from taking any acts diminishing the power of the President Judge of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

The Honorable Edward J. Blake, President Judge of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, brought an action in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court claiming that the Justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had violated Pennsylvania law and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution by depriving him of essential administrative powers and by usurping for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court powers that traditionally had been functions of the office of President Judge. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an opinion and order which upheld the challenged order of December 19, 1990 and which declared that the Court's challenged exercise of supervisory power violated neither federal nor state law. See In re Petition of Hon. Edward J. Blake, et al., 73 E.D. Misc. Dkt. (Pa. 1991) (per curiam). Judge Blake thereupon filed an action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to enjoin the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from exercising the powers of his office.

Because we conclude that the district court's exercise of subject matter jurisdiction in this case constituted an impermissible review by a federal court of a final adjudicative determination of a state's highest court, we will vacate the preliminary injunction entered by the District Court and remand this case with an instruction to dismiss Judge Blake's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I.

On December 18, 1990, the Board of Judges of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas elected Judge Edward Blake to the office of President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for a five-year term in accordance with the Pennsylvania Constitution, Art. V §§ 5 & 10(d). The next day, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order designating two Supreme Court Justices, appellants Papadakos and Cappy, to act with "full authority to approve, implement and monitor all changes deemed necessary and proper until further Order of this Court" as to all "administrative" and "budgetary" matters within the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. The order stated:

AND NOW, to-wit, this 19th day of December, 1990, MR. JUSTICE RALPH J. CAPPY is assigned to the task of overseeing the reformation of the Administrative Structure of the Courts of the First judicial district with the full authority to approve, implement and monitor all changes and reforms deemed necessary and proper until further order of this Court.

MR. JUSTICE NICHOLAS P. PAPADAKOS is assigned to the task of overseeing the Budgetary Structure of the Courts of the First Judicial District with the full authority to approve, implement and monitor all changes deemed necessary and proper to their budgets and to insure that such changes bring about fiscal responsibility for the Judicial District until further order of this court.

The Board of Judges of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, displeased with the Justices' apparent incursion on Judge Blake's authority, adopted a Resolution in March, 1991 affirming their selection of Judge Blake as President Judge and requesting that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court restore to Judge Blake the powers inherent in his position. Justice Papadakos, apparently on behalf of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, rejected that request by letter on March 18, 1991.

Pursuant to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's December 19, 1990 order, Justice Papadakos directed Judge Blake to transfer 59 of Judge Blake's 65 staff employees to the supervision of the Administrative Judge of the Trial Division. Justice Papadakos apparently also directed the termination of approximately 200 court employees.

On April 22, 1991, Judge Blake and the Board of Judges filed a Petition with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court urging the Court to set aside its December 19, 1990 order. Judge Blake and the Board maintained that the Justices' exercise of supervisory authority over the Court of Common Pleas violated the Pennsylvania Constitution (which created the position of President Judge and requires that the President ...


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