Who Has the Burden to Move a Case Forward ?

In Gombocz v. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, 849 A.2d 284 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004), the Court recognized that an appellant generally has the burden of moving the case forward, but recognized circumstances that could, in effect, shift that burden. In that case, a license suspension hearing was scheduled in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, and the Department of Transportation (DOT) moved to have the case transferred to the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County (trial court), even though it could have tried the case in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County. After the case was transferred to the trial court, counsel for the licensee filed an order for hearing, a letter to the court administrator stating that the licensee was seeking a hearing, and a motion for hearing. After the case was transferred, DOT did nothing to move the case forward until more than four (4) years later, when it moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of prosecution. The trial court denied the motion, and we affirmed the denial. The Court concluded that the delay was attributable to DOT, and that even if counsel for the licensee could have and should have continued his efforts to move the case forward, a comparison of counsel's efforts to obtain a hearing and DOT's complete failure to attempt to move the case forward "militates in favor of attributing the delay primarily" to DOT.