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News Notices & Publications: PA Supreme Court to hear SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority’s case


PA Supreme Court to hear SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority’s case

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to hear the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority’s (JRA) appeal to review a lower court’s decision addressing the JRA’s process for a new rail freight operating agreement. 


“We are pleased with the court’s order and look forward to making our case,” said JRA Executive Director Jeff Stover of the Jan. 24 decision.


The JRA issued its RFP in May 2014. After a July 2015 vote on a motion to award an operating agreement to proposer Carload Express Inc., there was a dispute about the vote required to award the agreement. Six board members, generally being rail customers, had previously abstained from voting to avoid even the slightest appearance of a conflict of interest. 


The effectiveness of the vote under Pennsylvania law and the JRA’s process also was disputed. Because of the conflicting interpretations, the JRA sought a declaratory judgment in the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas, saying the vote, which was seven to three in favor of awarding the agreement, was not effective, given the presence of all 16 JRA board members.



  • May 2017: The Clinton County Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the JRA. Carload Express appealed that decision to the Commonwealth Court.
  • May 2018: The Commonwealth Court reversed that order, and it is this decision that is being appealed.
  • Shortly after that decision, the JRA filed a petition for allowance of appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, seeking its review of the issues in the case.


The JRA’s appeal claims the law’s language was misapplied, Supreme Court precedent was overlooked, and the JRA’s discretion to design and implement its own contracting process was undermined by the Commonwealth Court Panel’s decision.


The crux of the case involves the question of whether the statute – which requires a majority vote by the “members present” – actually means a majority of the “members present and voting.” It also more broadly addresses the scope of discretion authorities like the JRA have to design and implement their own discretionary procurement processes.


“The JRA is fortunate to receive the Supreme Court’s review of the issues, given the low number of cases accepted for discretionary review, and welcomes such review. The court’s decision on the issues in this case will have a far-reaching impact for, not only the JRA, but also municipal authorities throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said JRA Board Chairman John Showers.

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SEDA-COG SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority JRA lawsuit Supreme Court appeal


Created at 1/25/2019 12:05 PM by Liz Regan
Last modified at 1/25/2019 12:05 PM by Liz Regan