HAUSER LAKE ROD AND GUN CLUB, INC., an Idaho non-profit corporation, Petitioner-Appellant,
THE CITY OF HAUSER, an Idaho municipal corporation, Respondent on Appeal, and KOOTENAI COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Idaho, Respondent.
Opinion No. 61
from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State
of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Richard S. Christensen,
court order denying attorney fees to prevailing party,
Vernon & Weeks, PA, Coeur d'Alene, for appellant.
Susan P. Weeks argued.
William Mark Appleton, Coeur d'Alene, for respondent.
BURDICK, Chief Justice.
appeal from Kootenai County concerns attorney fees under
Idaho Code section 12-117. The district court held that
Hauser Lake Rod and Gun Club, Inc. was not entitled to
attorney fees under section 12-117 because, even though it
had prevailed against the City of Hauser in a code violation
dispute, the administrative tribunal that reviewed the
dispute was staffed with both County and City officials.
According to the district court, section 12-117's
definition of "political subdivision" does not
include administrative review tribunals staffed with
officials from multiple governmental entities. We reverse.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
district court summarized the relevant facts giving rise to
this "procedural nightmare for all involved" as
In February 2012, Plaintiff, Hauser Lake Rod and Gun Club
(hereinafter "the Club"), inquired with Kootenai
County (hereinafter "the County") about obtaining a
building permit to construct an accessory storage building on
[its] property. Plaintiff was referred to the City of Hauser
Lake (hereinafter "the City") to proceed with [its]
request because the Club's property was within the
City's area of impact, [ and the type of permit sought was a Class
II building permit. The Club submitted a Class II permit
request to the City in early 2012. On March 27, 2012 a public
hearing was held on this Class II application. After the
hearing, the City informed the Club that the City would not
issue a decision on the application. Rather, the City and
County agreed that the Club's application required
different administrative procedures.
On June 8, 2012, the City, [sic] delivered a notice of
violation of Hauser Code to the Club for "operating
outside of the historical hours of operation." The Club
was told it had several options. It could change its hours,
thus continuing to operate only during the historical hours
of operation; alternatively, it could apply for a City of
Hauser Class II permit for commercial use, or it could appeal
the alleged code violation issued by the City of Hauser Code
Administrator to the Joint Planning and Zoning Commission
("the Joint Commission["]). The Joint Commission is
made up of both City and County officials and residents.
The Club chose the third option and appealed the alleged code
violation to the Joint Commission, denying that it had ever
violated the code. In its December 11, 2012, Findings of
Facts and Conclusion the Joint Commission upheld the
violation determination by the City Code Administrator. The
Club appealed to the [Kootenai County Joint Board of
Commissioners ("the Joint Board")] on January 8,
The Joint Board is comprised of the Kootenai County Board of
Commissioners and two City of Hauser City Council Members,
one of which may be the mayor. The Joint Board was created by
Kootenai County to hear appeals of the Joint Commission's
decisions. The City officials on the Joint Board do not have
authority to make motions or vote, but serve only in an
advisory capacity. The City officials may question witnesses
testifying and may confer and deliberate with the County
Commissioners prior to the final decision being issued. While
the Joint Board's voting members are also Kootenai County
Commissioners, the Joint Board has been established as a
separate and distinct entity from the County Commissioners.
August 2013, the Joint Board reversed the Joint
Commission. The Joint Board held that
the City lacked jurisdiction to issue a code violation to the
Club because it was not a resident of the City. The Club
requested attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-117. The
Joint Board made no findings concerning whether section
12-117 was applicable, declaring instead that it "was
not inclined to award attorney fees as requested by [the
Club]." The Club moved for reconsideration of the
attorney fees ruling. The Joint Board never ruled on the
September 2013, the Club appealed the Joint Board's
attorney fees ruling to the district court. As is relevant
here, the district court concluded the Joint Board had erred
by making no findings concerning attorney fees and remanded
the case with instructions to determine whether the Club was
entitled to attorney fees. The Club moved for reconsideration of that
order, questioning "the finality of the judgment and the
premature issuance of the remittitur before the time for
appeal had ...