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Ladley v. Pa. State Educ. Assoc.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court

January 4, 2022

An en banc panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court reversed the trial court’s summary judgment order. Teachers filed a declaratory judgment action and civil rights case, challenging the constitutionality of the Pennsylvania State Education Association’s (PSEA) collection of fair share fees and its implementation of the religious objector provisions of the Pennsylvania Fair Share Law. After Teachers sued, PSEA sent letters to all employees and nonmembers paying fair share fees to inform them that they were no longer required to pay fair share fees and that it had instructed employers to stop collecting them. PSEA also refunded Teachers the fair share fees in dispute, plus interest. Subsequently, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court denied Teachers’ motion for summary judgment and granted PSEA’s motion for summary judgment. In so doing, the trial court concluded that PSEA’s voluntary cessation of fee collection rendered Teachers’ case moot and dismissed it on that basis. Teachers appealed, and the Commonwealth Court reversed. The Court ordered the trial court to address the merits of Teachers’ constitutional claims to determine whether Teachers were a “prevailing party” under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and, if so, whether they were entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

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