Consequences of Not Filing a Petition to Obtain the Writ of Certiorari

In Christiansen v. Zoning Board of Adjustment (Philadelphia), 1 Pa. Commw. 32, 271 A.2d 889 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1970), the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) denied the appellant's application for a variance on July 9, 1969. On July 30, 1969, appellant's counsel obtained a writ of certiorari from the prothonotary's office without first filing the petition to obtain the writ as required by the ordinance. The writ was duly stamped and issued to the ZBA. On August 6, 1969, the appellant's counsel was contacted by the ZBA and reminded that the petition was missing. The unnamed caller assured the appellant's counsel that the petition would be accepted when counsel returned from vacation. The appeal period expired on August 9, 1969, and the appellant's counsel filed the required petition on August 28, 1969. The trial court granted a motion to quash the appeal as untimely, and the appellant appealed to our court. Reversing the trial court, the court in Christiansen rejected the appellant's alternative arguments that the timely issuance of the writ itself was sufficient to perfect the appeal or that the untimely filing should be ignored based on the assurances received from a representative of the ZBA. Instead, the court stated as follows: We think this is a classic case calling for the full use of this Court's interpretive powers in making a just and proper determination. It is our judgment that time limitations have as their prime function notification to all parties that no appeal will be asserted beyond that date and the prospect of protracted litigation is laid to rest. Id. at 891. The court concluded that "the delayed filing was and is of no consequence," reasoning that "the purpose of the statutory requirement was fulfilled in a timely, albeit, irregular fashion." Id. at 892.