Opinion No. 116
from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the
State of Idaho, Bonner County. Hon. Barbara A. Buchanan,
judgment of the district court is affirmed.
Marshall Law Office, Sandpoint, for appellant. Angela R.
Stephen F. Smith, Attorney at Law, Chartered, Sandpoint, for
respondent. Stephen F. Smith argued.
Fire District (the District) appeals the decision of the
district court granting a writ of prohibition on behalf of
Schweitzer Basin Water Company (the Company) that prevents
the District from taking proposed enforcement action against
the Company related to perceived flow-rate deficiencies of
fire hydrants owned by third-party homeowners and installed
on the Company's private water system. The district court
granted the writ of prohibition after concluding that the
District did not have jurisdiction over the Company under
Idaho Code section 41-259. The district court awarded
attorney fees and costs to the Company after determining that
the District's position was without a reasonable basis in
fact or law. The District timely appealed. The State Fire
Marshal submitted briefing as amicus curiae because the writ
of prohibition at issue involves interpretation of the scope
of its duties under Idaho Code.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Company has operated a private water system for delivery of
domestic water to residents in the Schweitzer Mountain area
since 1989. Beginning in 1992, the Company has allowed
homeowners to add fire hydrants to its water system under a
standard contract requiring the homeowners to be responsible
for maintenance of their hydrants. The District was formed in
1994. The Company and the District have had repeated disputes
about the flow-rate requirements of hydrants since that time.
present dispute began when the District sent an Order to
Repair and Remedy to the Company (the Order) on May 3, 2014.
Initially, the Company filed a request for a contested
hearing on the issues raised in the Order. However, instead
of proceeding with the contested hearing, the Company turned
to the district court, seeking relief by way of a writ of
prohibition. The district court issued an alternative writ of
prohibition on March 20, 2015, and scheduled a show cause
hearing for March 25, 2015. Following the hearing, the
district court left the alternative writ of prohibition in
effect and the parties attempted mediation. Mediation was
a hearing on January 20, 2016, the district court granted the
Company's request for a writ of prohibition. In its
Memorandum Decision granting the relief, the district court
explained that the District had no statutory authority under
Idaho Code section 41-259 to compel the Company to repair the
water system because the water system could not be considered
a "building or structure." The district court heard
the Company's motion for attorney fees on March 23, 2016,
and entered an order awarding attorney fees shortly after.
The district court entered the peremptory writ of prohibition
and judgment on April 21, 2016. After several other
post-trial motions not at issue in this appeal, the District
STANDARD OF REVIEW
concerning jurisdiction are questions of law over which this
Court exercises free review. State v. Dist. Court of
Fourth Judicial Dist., 143 Idaho 695, 699, 152 P.3d 566,
570 (2007). A writ of prohibition is only proper when the
petitioner can show "that the tribunal, corporation,
board[, ] or person is proceeding without or in excess of the
jurisdiction of such tribunal[, ] corporation, board, or
person." Id. at 698, 152 P.3d at 569 (quoting
Clearwater Timber Protective Ass'n v. Dist. Court of
Second Judicial Dist. In and For Clearwater Cnty., 84
Idaho 129, 135, 369 P.2d 571, 574 (1962)). A party seeking a
writ of prohibition must show that "there is not a
plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of
law." Id. The petitioner bears the burden of
proof as to these two requirements. Id. at 699, 152
P.3d at 570 (citing Clark v. Ada Cnty. Bd. of
Comm'rs, 98 Idaho 749, 752, 572 P.2d 501, 504
context of a writ of prohibition, the term
"jurisdiction" has a specific meaning. As we
explained in Henry v. Ysursa:
The word "jurisdiction" when used in reference to a
writ of prohibition includes the power or authority conferred
by law. Crooks v. Maynard, 112 Idaho 312, 319, 732
P.2d 281, 288 (1987) (where administrative orders were within
the "power and authority" of the administrative
district judge, a writ of prohibition would not issue);
Stein v. Morrison, 9 Idaho 426, 455, 75 P. 246, 256
(1904) (quoting from Maurer v. Mitchell, 53 Cal.
289, 292 (1878)) ("The word 'jurisdiction, '
when used in connection with 'prohibition, ' would be
at once understood as being employed in the sense of the
legal power or review." State v. District
Court, 143 Idaho 695, 699, 152 P.3d 566, 570 (2007)).
148 Idaho 913, 915, 231 P.3d 1010, 1012 (2008). The
District's claim of authority over the Company is
grounded in statute. "Statutory interpretation is a
question of law over which this Court exercises free
review." Estate of Stahl v. Idaho State Tax
Comm'n, 162 Idaho 558, 562, 401 P.3d 136, 140 (2017)
(quoting Carrillo v. Boise Tire Co., 152 Idaho 741,
748, 274 P.3d 1256, 1263 (2012)).
fees awarded by a district court under Idaho Code section
12-117 are reviewed for abuse of discretion. City of
Osburn v. Randel, 152 Idaho 906, 908, 277 P.3d 353, 355
(2012). In determining whether a district court has abused
its discretion, this Court examines whether the district
court: "(1) correctly perceive[d] the issue as
discretionary, (2) act[ed] within the bounds of discretion
and applie[d] the correct legal standards, and (3) reache[d]
the decision through an exercise of reason."
American Semiconductor, Inc. v. Sage Silicon
Solutions, LLC, 162 Idaho 119, 132, 395 P.3d
338, 351 (2017) (quoting O'Connor v. Harger Constr.,
Inc., 145 Idaho 904, 909, 188 P.3d 846, 851 (2008)). The
appellant bears the burden of showing that the trial court
abused its discretion. Id. (citing Merrill v.
Gibson, 139 Idaho 840, 843, 87 P.3d 949, 952 (2004)).
The district court correctly concluded that the District did
not have jurisdiction over the Company's water system
under Idaho Code section 41-259.
Memorandum Decision and Order Granting Writ of Prohibition,
the district court considered the District's claim of
authority over the Company under Idaho Code section 41-259.
The district court concluded that "the Company's
water system can in no way be construed as a 'building or
other structure which, for want of repairs, . . . or by
reason of age or dilapidated condition, or due to violation
of the International Fire Code or from any other cause, is
especially liable to fire . . . .' " The district
court also decided that the administrative hearings proposed
by the District did not present an adequate remedy at law for
the Company. Having concluded that the two requirements for
issuance of a writ of prohibition had been satisfied, the
district court granted the petition. Based upon the legal
arguments presented to it, the district court did not err.
preliminary matter, we must consider the extent to which
arguments advanced by the State Fire Marshal, appearing as
amicus curiae, may be properly considered when deciding this
appeal. Stated summarily, the State Fire Marshal advances the
thesis that the district court did not properly interpret
Idaho Code section 41-259 within the context of the entire
statutory fire-safety scheme. The extent to which amicus
briefing may inject new legal issues into an appeal has ...