If An Entity Acts Under the State's Control It Is a ''commonwealth Agency'' for Jurisdictional Purposes
In Gory Mech. Contracting Inc. v. Philadelphia Housing Auth., 579 Pa. 26, 31 n.7, 855 A.2d 669, 673 n.7 (2004), the Supreme Court articulated the following standard:
When determining whether an entity is a Commonwealth agency for jurisdictional purposes so that cases against it must be originally heard in the Commonwealth Court, the pivotal factors to be looked at are whether the entity operates on a statewide basis and is predominantly controlled by the state.
As we explained in T & R Painting Co., Inc. v. Philadelphia Housing Authority, 466 Pa. 493, 353 A.2d 800 (1976), where the entity acts throughout the state and under the state's control, it is clearly meant to be a Commonwealth agency for jurisdictional purposes so that it may be sued in the Commonwealth Court.
In contrast, where the entity operates within a single county or municipality and is governed in large part by that county or municipality, the entity must be characterized as a local agency and sued in the trial courts because the trial courts will be more familiar with the issues surrounding the entity's operations and organizational make-up. Gory, 579 Pa. at 40, 855 A.2d at 678.
"'The concept of jurisdiction is designed to insure the availability of the most practical and competent forum for the airing of a particular grievance.'" Id. at 39, 855 A.2d at 678 quoting Scott v. Shapiro, 19 Pa. Commw. 479, 339 A.2d 597, 599 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1975).
The Gory court observed that "the Commonwealth Court was created to serve as an original forum for deciding issues of statewide concern that needed to be uniformly decided." Id.
In determining PHA's status, the court noted that the governing body of the city or county in which a housing authority is located has the power to create or dissolve the housing authority, as well as to appoint the authority's members housing authorities, and that housing authorities "operate solely in one locality and predominantly under the control of the governing body in that locality." Id. at 36 & n.13, 855 A.2d at 675-76 & n.13.
Therefore, the court concluded that housing authorities are considered local agencies for purposes of jurisdiction and subject to the original jurisdiction of common pleas. Id. at 36, 855 A.2d at 676.