2 Pa.C.S. 754 Interpretation

Section 754 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa.C.S. § 754, indicates that it is the appellate court, in reviewing the determination of the municipal civil service commission, and not the fact-finding body, that applies the substantial evidence standard of review.

In Suber v. Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, 885 A.2d 678, 681-83 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005) the Court stated:

The standard or burden of proof in a particular type of proceeding is based upon the level of concern regarding the degree of accuracy in the factual findings made by the trier of fact. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970).

The traditional 'preponderance of the evidence' standard allows parties-usually engaged in a civil dispute best settled by monetary compensation-to share equally the risk in proving their claims and affirmative defenses. Any other standard expresses a preference for one side's interests.

Cases in which one party has accused another of a civil wrong with more severe implications, such as fraud, require proof by clear and convincing evidence.

Finally, in a criminal case, almost the entire risk of error is placed upon the state which is required to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.

Like civil actions, the normal burden of proof for most administrative actions is the preponderance of the evidence standard. Samuel J. Lansberry, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, 134 Pa.Cmwlth. 218, 578 A.2d 600 (1990), petition for allowance of appeal denied, 529 Pa. 654, 602 A.2d 863 (1998); see also North American Coal Corporation v. Air Pollution Commission, 2 Pa.Cmwlth. 469, 279 A.2d 356 (1971).

More apropos is our recent decision in Ruane v. Shippensburg University, 871 A.2d 859 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005), where a student was suspended for sexual assault.

In that case, we held that the proper standard was not the clear and convincing standard of proof, but the 'by a preponderance of the evidence' standard.

In Boguslawski v. Department of Education, 837 A.2d 614 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2003), where a teacher's teaching certificate was revoked under the Professional Educator Discipline Act . . . we specifically re-affirmed Lansberry concluding that preponderance of the evidence was the correct standard to be applied in teacher discipline cases.

Because the interests here are no more substantial than the interest expressed in either Ruane or Boguslawski or in other employee discipline cases, the Board correctly applied the preponderance of the evidence standard of proof to this proceeding.