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Collection Bureau, Inc v. John M. Dorsey

March 21, 2011

COLLECTION BUREAU, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JOHN M. DORSEY,
DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Lansing L. Haynes, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Horton, Justice

2011 Opinion No. 40

Stephen Kenyon, Clerk

The district court order granting summary judgment is reversed and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

This case relates to an effort to collect a fine in a criminal case. Collection Bureau, Inc. (Collection Bureau) appeals the district court's order granting John Dorsey's (Dorsey) motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the statute of limitations barred recovery of the fine imposed upon conviction. We reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Dorsey was charged by information with trafficking in methamphetamine by manufacturing in Shoshone County. At the conclusion of his trial, the jury found Dorsey guilty. On March 19, 2001, the district court entered a judgment of conviction, sentencing Dorsey to twenty years imprisonment, with five years fixed, and fining Dorsey $25,000, payable to the Shoshone County Clerk of the Court.

On August 8, 2005, Dorsey was released on parole. On that date, he executed a notarized written instrument that set forth the conditions of his parole (Parole Agreement). The Parole Agreement contained a special condition providing that Dorsey "must make payment to the sentencing court for fines and other assessments, which were ordered at the time of sentencing. Establish and follow a payment schedule as determined by the Parole Officer."

Shoshone County (the County) made unsuccessful oral and written demands of Dorsey for payment. The County did not record or renew the judgment, nor did it seek to execute upon the judgment. Instead, it assigned the debt to Collection Bureau. By September 25, 2007, interest on Dorsey's fine had increased the amount due to $33,325. Collection Bureau filed a complaint seeking to collect that amount on January 28, 2008. Dorsey answered, asserting that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations.

Dorsey moved for summary judgment on those grounds.*fn1 In response, Collection Bureau asserted that because the original judgment was in writing and benefited the state, it was excepted from the five-year statute of limitations by operation of I.C. § 5-216.*fn2 In the alternative, Collection Bureau asserted that the Parole Agreement was an enforceable contract between Dorsey and the Department of Corrections that renewed Dorsey's obligation to pay the debt. Collection Bureau argued that the County, and Collection Bureau as its assignee, were third-party beneficiaries of that contract and therefore had the right to enforce the contract. Collection Bureau asserted that because the Parole Agreement was a contract with the state, enforcement of the document's terms was excepted from the statute of limitations provided by I.C. § 5-216, and therefore the cause of action was not barred. Collection Bureau also contended that even if the Parole Agreement did not inure to the benefit of the state, the action was not barred because it was a new written contract and the action was commenced within five years of the date of the Parole Agreement.

The district court found that the Parole Agreement could "potentially be construed as a contract between the State of Idaho Department of Correction and Mr. Dorsey." However, it held that the gravamen of that agreement was that Dorsey must engage in prosocial activities to maintain his release on parole. It held that since the benefit that would inure to the County if Dorsey paid the fine was only incidental to this prosocial purpose, Collection Bureau was not a third-party beneficiary vested with the authority to enforce the Parole Agreement. The district court thus granted Dorsey's motion for summary judgment.*fn3 Collection Bureau timely appealed, requesting attorney fees and costs pursuant to I.C. §§ 12-120(3) and 12-121, as well as Idaho Appellate Rules 35(a)(5) and 41.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

On appeal from an order granting a party's motion for summary judgment, we employ the same standard of review that the trial court used in ruling on the motion. Baxter v. Craney, 135 Idaho 166, 170, 16 P.3d 263, 267 (2000). Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, affidavits, and discovery documents before the district court indicate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

I.R.C.P. 56(c). The moving party carries the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Baxter, 135 Idaho at 170, 16 P.3d at 267. This Court will liberally construe facts in favor of the non-moving party, together with all reasonable inferences from the evidence. Coghlan v. ...


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