PA Supreme Court dismisses lawsuit seeking replacement of City Commissioners

The state Supreme Court denied Wednesday a petition asking the court to order the head of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court to replace the City Commissioners for the upcoming May 16 primary election.

Good government group Committee of Seventy and political action committee Philadelphia 3.0 filed a lawsuit against Common Pleas Court President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper over her inaction in replacing the three city commissioner this election cycle. The groups said that state election law calls for Woods-Skipper to appoint three judges, or ";electors of the county,"; to act as the Board of Elections when there is a ballot question asking for a Home Rule Charter amendment. A question regarding changes in the city's procurement practices will be on the May primary ballot.

The plaintiffs asked the state Supreme Court order Woods-Skipper to replace the commissioners before the May 16 primary.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued an order that dismissed the case. It did not have an opinion explaining the reason for dismissal.

“We continue to believe that the law is clear and that the commissioners shouldn’t be in the position of determining when a charter change question poses a conflict,” Alison Perelman, executive director of Philadelphia 3.0, said Wednesday.

Lawyers for Philadelphia 3.0 and Committee of Seventy, along with three individuals who were also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, are reviewing legal options.

The commissioners, who act as the local board of elections, responded to the lawsuit last week by saying the plaintiffs are incorrect in their reading of the state election code.

The lawsuit is based on a section of the election code that says, "Whenever there appears on the ballot a question relating to the adoption of a Home Rule Charter for the county or amendments to an existing county Home Rule Charter, the president judge of the Court of Common Pleas shall appoint judges or electors of the county to serve in the stead of the county commissioners."

The commissioners, through the City Solicitor's Office, argue that county Home Rule Charter does not apply to them because the city has a city Home Rule Charter.

Following Wednesday's decision, Commissioner Al Schmidt said: "Given our shared interest, maybe these groups should try working with us to improve elections, rather than wasting everyone's time."

Woods-Skipper in her legal response said that Committee of Seventy and Philadelphia 3.0 should file a petition in Common Pleas Court, which she oversees, to provide an opportunity for both sides to make their arguments.

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