Sheryl L. Brown, Esquire had the honor of arguing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on April 9, 2019 to address an issue related to part-time police officers across the state.
In a question certified to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, guidance was sought on whether the Police Tenure Act and the Pennsylvania Borough Code should be read together, such that every police officer in Pennsylvania would fall under the protections of one of the statutes.
The facts of the underlying federal lawsuit addressed whether a part-time police officer, paid on an hourly basis, had a right to a hearing before being terminated. Because the borough police department employed 4 officers, the trial court determined that the Borough Code applied. As such, the part-time hourly paid officer was not subject to the protections of the Borough Code. Therefore, the failure to provide a pre-termination hearing did not violate his due process rights. The trial court also determined that the officer was not subject to the provisions of the Police Tenure Act as the department employed more than three police officers, even though all the officers were part-time. Taking it one step further, the trial court also determined that even if the Tenure Act applied, based upon the undisputed facts, the officer was not deemed to be a “regular full-time” police officer.
The trial court’s dismissal of the underlying lawsuit was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The federal appeals court sought guidance from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to determine the applicability of the Borough Code and/or the Police Tenure Act where a department employed four part-time police officers.
Following a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the federal appeals court will address the underlying claims to determine if the trial court was correct in determining that the officer’s due process rights were not violated. Stay tuned – as there will be more to come pending the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s determination along with the federal appeal’s court decision.
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