Former Commonwealth Court President Judge Joseph T. “Ted” Doyle, 81, died Tuesday.
Doyle was a judge on the Commonwealth Court for 21 years, beginning in 1982, and served as president judge from 1999 until his retirement from the bench in 2002.
Before becoming a judge, Doyle also served in the state legislature.
During his time on the bench, Doyle penned several key decisions, including Beachem v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, in which the court reversed an Unemployment Compensation Board of Review’s determination that a father could not receive unemployment compensation because he did not have to leave his job in Alabama to care for his son in Pennsylvania, who suffered from behavioral and emotional problems.
Doyle, leading a three-judge panel, wrote “that a cause of necessitous and compelling nature may exist where a claimant voluntarily terminates his employment in order to care for his emotionally or behaviorally disturbed child.”
Doyle also penned the opinion in Mixon v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in which the court en banc struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act that permitted ex-felons registered to vote before their incarceration the immediate right to vote upon release while requiring unregistered ex-felons to wait five years.
Robert L. Byer, a partner at Duane Morris in Pittsburgh and a former Commonwealth Court judge, both appeared before and worked alongside Doyle.
“Both appearing before him as a lawyer and working with him as a colleague, he was one of my favorites,” Byer said, noting that he maintained a friendship with Doyle over the years, often having dinner with him whenever he was in Pittsburgh.
As a colleague, Byer remembered Doyle as a “very conscientious judge” who could always be counted on to know all of the facts and law of the cases on his docket inside and out.
“He was always on top of his cases,” Byer said. “He worked hard to apply the law in a fair and correct manner.”
Byer said Doyle’s studiousness was tempered by a kind and sensitive personality.
“He was always very respectful of others’ feelings and points of view,” Byer said. “He was decisive but gentle.”
Vincent B. Mancini, founder of the Law Offices of Vincent B. Mancini & Associates in Media, Pa., where Doyle served as counsel from 2009 until his death, had a similar memory of Doyle’s judicial temperament.
“Professionally, he was an incredibly brilliant jurist,” Mancini said, adding, “He was always a gentleman and he treated the members of the bar with respect.”
Like Byer, Mancini recalled Doyle’s fairness on the bench and his willingness to consider both sides of an issue.
If Doyle felt a particular legal argument was convincing, he would fight for it, Mancini said, but if he disagreed with an attorney’s position, no amount of personal affection could sway him.
“Even if you were a friend, if the law was not on your side, you were done,” Mancini said, laughing. “That’s all any good lawyer really expects from a judge.”
Mancini first met Doyle in the late 1970s, when Doyle was a solicitor for the Borough of Brookhaven Zoning Hearing Board in Delaware County.
Prior to that, Doyle had been elected to the state House of Representatives in 1970 and was re-elected in 1972, 1974 and 1976.
During his time in the legislature, Doyle served as vice chairman of the Law and Justice Committee and chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts.
Doyle and Mancini remained friends over the years and, after leaving the bench, Doyle approached Mancini about joining his firm.
“He wanted to come back to Delaware County and I said I’d be honored,” Mancini said, noting that the young associates in his office benefited greatly from Doyle’s wealth of experience and legal knowledge. “It was a great relationship. He enjoyed the young people in the office and he had a great love for Delaware County and its bar. I was more than pleased because he was not only a good friend but a man of substantial accomplishments.”
Doyle never lost his verve for the courtroom, handling several important cases for the firm, Mancini said.
Just last year, according to Mancini, Doyle successfully argued before the state Supreme Court that the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act is not applicable to all phases of a construction project.
In 500 James Hance Court v. Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Appeals Board, the justices voted 5-2 to uphold a Commonwealth Court’s ruling that the construction of a charter school building’s shell with private funds was not “public work” requiring application of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act, even though public funds were intended to be used for the fit-out of the building.
According to Mancini, Doyle briefed and argued the case before both the Commonwealth Court and the Supreme Court.
But while Doyle was a valuable member of the firm from a professional aspect, he was equally treasured on a personal level, Mancini said.
“He was one of the most moral, straightforward and honest men you’d ever want to meet and someone you could trust implicitly,” Mancini said, noting that Doyle also had a great sense of humor.
“People loved him and I was one of them,” Mancini said.
A viewing is scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the Logan Funeral Home, 698 East Lincoln Highway (corner of Route 30 and Ship Road) in Exton, Pa. A funeral mass is scheduled at 11 a.m. Friday at Saints Peter and Paul Church, 1325 Boot Road, West Chester (East Goshen), Pa.