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Laughy v. Idaho Dep't of Transportation

November 1, 2010

LINWOOD LAUGHY, KAREN HENDRICKSON, AND PETER GRUBB, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND CONOCOPHILLIPS COMPANY, INTERVENOR-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Idaho County. Hon. John Bradbury, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: W. Jones, Justice

2010 Opinion No. 110

The decision of the district court is vacated and this case is remanded to the district court for entry of a dismissal.

I. NATURE OF THE CASE

The Idaho Transportation Department (―ITD‖) granted permits to ConocoPhillips Company (―ConocoPhillips‖) to transport oversize loads of refinery equipment down U.S. Highway 12 in northern Idaho. The ITD and ConocoPhillips appeal the district court's decision to reverse these permits.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

ConocoPhillips purchased two coke drums to replace worn out components at its refinery in Billings, Montana, and seeks to move them down Highway 12 from Lewiston, Idaho, to the Montana border. Highway 12, also known as the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, runs through the Clearwater National Forest and, for much of its length, borders the Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers.

The maximum size and weight of vehicles and their loads allowed on state highways are prescribed by statute. See I.C. §§ 49-1001, -1002, -1010 (defining the maximum gross load weight and maximum vehicle and load sizes allowed on the highway). ConocoPhillips's drum shipments will be large enough to take up the entire two-lane highway, requiring a rolling roadblock along with a number of traffic flaggers and escort vehicles. For permission to exceed the weight and size specifications, ConocoPhillips had to apply to the ITD for ―overlegal‖ permits under the ITD's rules regarding special permits. IDAPA 39.03.10.100; see I.C.§ 49-1004 (allowing ITD to consider applications for special permits).*fn1 ConocoPhillips and its shipping company, Emmert International, worked with the ITD for over a year to develop a detailed transportation plan to move the drums.

Respondents, who live and operate businesses along the Highway 12 corridor, oppose the shipment. They assert that moving the loads down Highway 12 will degrade the local tourism industry, disturb the peaceful enjoyment of their homes, impede highway users from reaching medical care in an emergency, and could create logistical and environmental problems if a drum topples into the river. Respondents voiced their disapproval by sending numerous comments to the ITD but did not intervene as parties in the application process.

Although the ITD had not yet issued the permits to ConocoPhillips, on August 16, 2010, Respondents filed a Petition for Judicial Review and Request for Immediate Injunctive Relief. The district court granted a temporary restraining order the following day, enjoining the ITD from issuing the overlegal permits. On the morning of August 19, 2010, the district court held a telephonic hearing in which it granted a motion by ConocoPhillips to intervene. It also lifted its restraining order, finding that it did not have jurisdiction over the matter until the ITD issued a final agency order. In response, the ITD granted four overlegal permits to ConocoPhillips the following day. Then, on August 24, after a hearing on the merits, the district court reversed the ITD's decision to issue the permits, reasoning that the agency did not properly consider public safety and did not reasonably determine that the shipment plan was necessary.

The ITD and ConocoPhillips (collectively ―Appellants‖) both appealed the district court's decision. ConocoPhillips then filed a Motion for Expedited Hearing, which this Court granted. Oral arguments before this Court occurred on October 1, 2010.

On appeal, Appellants contend that Respondents did not properly articulate any substantial rights that would be prejudiced if the shipment were allowed to occur. They further argue that there was substantial evidence in the record to justify the permits because the ITD correctly considered the public's safety and convenience and determined that it was reasonably necessary to use Highway 12.*fn2 Last, ConocoPhillips challenges the district court's jurisdiction on the grounds that Respondents did not exhaust their avenues for administrative appeal before petitioning for judicial review.

III. ISSUES ON APPEAL

1. Whether the district court and this Court have jurisdiction to consider this matter.

2. Whether Respondents exhausted their administrative remedies.

3. Whether the ITD properly granted the overload permits to ConocoPhillips.

4. Whether Respondents or ConocoPhillips are entitled to attorney fees incurred in the district court.

5. Whether Respondents or ConocoPhillips are entitled to attorney fees on appeal.

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

―When reviewing a decision of the district court acting in its appellate capacity, the Supreme Court directly reviews the district court's decision.‖ Reisenauer v. State, 145 Idaho 948, 949, 188 P.3d 890, 891 (2008). The district court shall affirm the agency's action unless the agency's decision was:

(a) in violation of constitutional or statutory provisions;

(b) in excess of the statutory authority of the agency;

(c) made upon unlawful procedure;

(d) not supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole; or

(e) arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion.

I.C. § 67-5279(3). In addition to proving one of the enumerated statutory grounds for overturning an agency action, the challenging party must also show prejudice to a substantial right. Id. § 67-5279(4); Lane Ranch P'ship v. City of Sun Valley, 145 Idaho 87, 89--90, 175 P.3d 776, 778--79 (2007). The interpretation of a statute is an issue subject to free review by this Court. Neighbors for Responsible Growth v. Kootenai Cnty., 147 Idaho 173, 176, 207 P.3d 149, 152 (2009).

V. ANALYSIS

A. The District Court Lacked Jurisdiction over the Petition for Judicial Review

The Idaho Constitution allows the Legislature to delimit the district courts' appellate jurisdiction. Idaho Const. art. V, § 20.*fn3 Actions by state agencies are not subject to judicial review unless expressly authorized by statute. I.R.C.P. 84(a)(1). Without an enabling statute, the district court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., In re Williams, 2010 WL 3463992, at *3--4 (Idaho Sep. 7, 2010) (dismissing a petition for review for lack of jurisdiction because no statute authorized an appeal); Taylor v. Canyon Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs, 147 Idaho 424, 431--32, 210 P.3d 532, 539--40 (2009) (same); cf. Regan v. Kootenai Cnty., 140 Idaho 721, 726, 100 P.3d 615, 620 (2004) (holding that a reviewable final order is necessary for subject-matter jurisdiction). Respondents filed a petition for judicial review in the district court to challenge the ITD's decision to grant the overlegal permits. The Idaho Administrative Procedure Act (―IAPA‖), I.C. §§ 67-5201 to -5292, governs judicial review of agency actions. Gibson v. Ada Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 139 Idaho 5, 7, 72 P.3d 845, 847 (2003) (citing I.C. § 67-5270(1)). Idaho Code § 67-5270, subsections 2 and 3, allow petitions for review in two different scenarios but neither applies here.

None of the parties raised the issue of whether the district court had jurisdiction under § 67-5270 to consider Respondents' petition for judicial review. Nonetheless, the courts are obligated to ensure their own subject-matter jurisdiction and must raise the issue sua sponte if necessary. Highlands Dev. Corp. v. City of Boise, 145 Idaho 958, 960, 188 P.3d 900, 902 (2008).

1. I.C. § 67-5270(2) Does Not Provide Jurisdiction Because Respondents Are Challenging an Order in a Contested Case

Idaho Code § 67-5270(2) provides that ―[a] person aggrieved by final agency action other than an order in a contested case is entitled to judicial review under this chapter,‖ provided the petitioner exhausts the available administrative remedies and complies with other procedural requirements.*fn4 I.C. § 67-5270(2) (emphasis added). A contested case is then simply defined as ―[a] proceeding by an agency . . . that may result in the issuance of an order.‖ I.C. § 67-5240. Thus, for jurisdiction to exist under subsection 2, Respondents must be challenging a final agency action that is not an order in a contested case as that term is defined by statute. An order is ―an agency action of particular applicability that determines the legal rights, duties, privileges, immunities, or other legal interests of one (1) or more specific persons.‖ I.C. § 67-5201(12); see also ...


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