Judicial Enforcement of Administrative Subpoena Must Be Initiated by Service of Process- Hemphill v. Lenz

Over a four-year period the city of Philadelphia had entered into contracts with Marbelite Company, a New York corporation, for traffic signal equipment. Acting pursuant to section 8-409 of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, the city controller served the treasurer of Marbelite, in Philadelphia, with a subpoena requiring him to produce certain corporate records and to testify concerning requisitions for payments on the contracts. Refusing to comply with the subpoena, the treasurer returned to New York. The controller then filed a petition in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County and obtained an order to show cause why the treasurer should not be compelled to obey the subpoena. The treasurer appeared specially to contest the court’s jurisdiction on the ground that he had not been served with the court’s process. The common pleas court overruled this objection, apparently reasoning that, because of the treasurer’s evasive tactics to avoid process, registered letters mailed to the company’s New York office supplied notice of the impending proceeding and sufficed to give the court jurisdiction. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, held reversed, one judge dissenting. A judicial proceeding for enforcement of an administrative subpoena under section 8-409 must be commenced by service of process from the enforcing court.