Did Court's Ruling on An Ordinance Involved the Local Human Relations Commission's Authority to Act ?
In Riedel v. Human Relations Commission of Reading, 559 Pa. 34, 739 A.2d 121 (1999) the Supreme Court reversed this Court's order and remanded the matter, noting the local human relations commission's argument that this Court improperly sua sponte raised and addressed the issue of whether the commission exceeded its authority by enacting and enforcing an ordinance provision making it unlawful for any person to, inter alia, coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of any right granted or protected by the ordinance.
The commission indicated that the appellee had not raised the issue in his brief to the trial court, in his statement of matters complained of on appeal or in his brief to this Court.
In agreeing with the commission, the Supreme Court found that this Court's sua sponte ruling on the ordinance was not a jurisdictional determination but instead involved the commission's authority to act.
The court reiterated the distinction between an agency's authority to act and its jurisdiction:
Jurisdiction and power are not interchangeable although judges and lawyers often confuse them--Hellertown Borough Referendum Case, 354 Pa. 255, 47 A.2d 273 (1946).
Jurisdiction relates solely to the competency of the particular court or administrative body to determine controversies of the general class to which the case then presented for its consideration belongs.
Power, on the other hand, means the ability of a decision-making body to order or effect a certain result. Delaware River Port Auth. v. PA. Public Utility Commission, 408 Pa. 169, 178, 182 A.2d 682, 686 (1962);
See also Beltrami Enterprises, Inc. v. Commonwealth of PA, Dep't of Environmental Resources, 159 Pa. Cmwlth. 72, 632 A.2d 989, 993 (1993) (fact that administrative agency may not have power to afford relief in particular case presented is of no moment to determination of its jurisdiction over general subject matter of controversy).Riedel, 559 Pa. 39 - 40, 739 A.2d at 124.