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State v. L'Abbe

Court of Appeals of Idaho

November 25, 2013

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
STEPHEN D. L'ABBE, Defendant-Appellant

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

2013 Unpublished Opinion No. 762

Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Michael R. McLaughlin, District Judge. Hon. Charles L. Hay, Magistrate.

Order of the district court, on intermediate appeal from the magistrate division, affirming the judgment of conviction for failure to use a safety restraint, affirmed.

Stephen D. L'Abbe, Boise, pro se appellant.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Lori A. Fleming, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

MELANSON, Judge

Stephen D. L'Abbe appeals from the district court's order, entered in its appellate capacity, affirming his judgment of conviction before a magistrate for failure to use a safety restraint. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

L'Abbe was cited for failing to use a safety restraint, a violation of I.C. § 49-673(3)(a)(i). Following a bench trial, L'Abbe was found guilty and ordered to pay a $10 fine. L'Abbe appealed to the district court, which affirmed L'Abbe's judgment of conviction. L'Abbe again appeals.

For an appeal from the district court, sitting in its appellate capacity over a case from the magistrate division, this Court examines the magistrate record to determine whether there is substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate's findings of fact and whether the magistrate's conclusions of law follow from those findings. State v. DeWitt, 145 Idaho 709, 711, 184 P.2d 215, 217 (Ct. App. 2008). This Court then affirms or reverses the decision of the district court accordingly. State v. Van Sickle, 120 Idaho 99, 101, 813 P.3d 910, 912 (Ct. App. 1991).

L'Abbe primarily argues that the magistrate did not have subject matter or personal jurisdiction to enter judgment in his case. Whether a court lacks jurisdiction is a question of law, over which this Court exercises free review. State v. Jones, 140 Idaho 755, 757, 101 P.3d 699, 701 (2004). To properly proceed in a criminal case, a court must acquire both personal and subject matter jurisdiction. State v. Rogers, 140 Idaho 223, 228, 91 P.3d 1127, 1132 (2004). Personal jurisdiction refers to a court's power to bring a person into its adjudicative process, whereas subject matter jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction over the nature of the case and the type of relief sought. State v. Ambro, 142 Idaho 77, 79, 123 P.3d 710, 712 (Ct. App. 2005). Thus, without personal jurisdiction, the court has no person to hold accountable, and without subject matter jurisdiction, the court has no alleged crime to hold the person accountable for. Rogers, 140 Idaho at 228, 91 P.3d at 1132.

L'Abbe asserts that the magistrate division of the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over his case because the magistrate division is not an Article III court under the United States Constitution. However, this case only involves a state traffic infraction, not a federal offense, so no Article III court or judge is required. Article V, Section 2 of the Idaho Constitution provides:

The judicial power of the state shall be vested in a court for the trial of impeachments, a Supreme Court, district courts, and such other courts inferior to the Supreme Court as established by the legislature. . . . The jurisdiction of such inferior courts shall be as prescribed by the legislature.

This provision of the Idaho Constitution was intended to make the legislature the sole authority in determining the jurisdiction of inferior courts. Acker v. Mader, 9 ...


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