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Erickson v. The Idaho Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers

Supreme Court of Idaho

May 14, 2019

CHAD R. ERICKSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE IDAHO BOARD OF LICENSURE OF PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS AND PROFESSIONAL LAND SURVEYORS and KEITH SIMILA, in his capacity as Executive Director of the Idaho Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors, Defendants-Respondents.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Idaho County. Hon. Gregory FitzMaurice, District Judge.

         The opinion of the district court is reversed and the Board's order against Erickson is vacated.

          Chad R. Erickson, appellant pro se.

          Michael J. Kane & Associates, PLLC, Boise, for respondent. Michael J. Kane argued.

          MOELLER, JUSTICE.

         I. NATURE OF THE CASE

         The Idaho Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors (the Board), through its executive director, Keith Simila, brought disciplinary proceedings against Chad R. Erickson for allegedly violating certain statutes and rules governing the surveying profession. Following an administrative hearing, the Board found that Erickson violated a number of the statutes and rules alleged and revoked his license as a professional land surveyor. Erickson appealed the revocation of his license to the district court. The district court upheld the Board's finding that Erickson had committed certain violations; however, the district court reversed the portion of the Board's Order revoking Erickson's license and remanded the matter for further consideration of the appropriate sanction. Erickson appeals from the district court's decision, arguing that the evidence does not support the Board's finding of any violations. In addition, Erickson asserts that numerous procedural errors made by the Board necessitate reversal. For the reasons stated below, we reverse.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Erickson's survey of Section 24.

         The underlying controversy surrounding the Board's disciplinary action began when Erickson, a licensed professional land surveyor in Idaho, prepared a record of survey for his clients, Sydney and Dorothy Walker (the Walkers), on July 27, 2010. In that survey, Erickson rejected an original stone monument, known as the Carl Edwards monument, [1] located at the southwest corner of Section 24, Township 30 North, Range 3 East, Boise Meridian, Idaho County, Idaho ("Section 24"), by moving the corner approximately 272 feet to the south in favor of the Walkers. Erickson failed to note in the survey of record a parcel of land owned by the Grangeville Highway District, implying the Walkers owned the parcel.

         Erickson also authored a survey report in July 2010, explaining his reasons for relocating the monument, many of which the Board found to be "significantly faulty." The survey report also speculated that the Walkers' adjoining neighbors, Diane and Richard Badertscher (the Badertschers), had encroached upon the Walkers' property by building a fence based upon a survey from 1996 that Erickson claimed was incorrect. Since Erickson's surveys, there has been ongoing litigation concerning the true location of the boundaries to the neighboring properties.

         On December 29, 2011, Erickson sent the Walkers a document titled "Report on the Southwest Corner of Section 24." This document was unstamped and unsigned. In that document, Erickson stated that his original conclusions in the 2010 survey of record and survey report were erroneous. However, he continued to reject the Carl Edwards monument, referring to both it and his newly monumented corner as "bogus." It appears Erickson was willing to relocate the corner to its "correct" location if the Walkers paid him to do so. However, the Walkers chose not to rehire Erickson. There is no evidence in the record to suggest that Erickson filed an amended corner record or an amended record of survey to memorialize or correct his mistake.

         In March 2015, Erickson published an article in American Surveyor magazine, justifying his rejection of the Carl Edwards monument. In that article, he cited information not mentioned in his original survey report to the Walkers. Prior to the publication of his article, Erickson recorded a document nearly identical to the article, entitled "Survey Report," with the Idaho County Courthouse. Erickson's article and survey report allegedly contained negative references about the Walkers and the surveyor they hired to replace him.[2]

         B. Disciplinary proceedings by the Board.

         On February 24, 2011, the Board received a letter from the Badertschers styled as a "complaint" against Erickson. However, the letter was not a formal complaint as it was unsworn. The Board initiated an investigation into the allegations made in the letter. On May 5, 2011, the Board entered an order extending the time to investigate the matter raised in the letter. In addition to the Badertschers' letter, the Board received a letter from Dorothy Walker on March 31, 2015, alleging similar complaints regarding Erickson. On June 10, 2015, the Board also extended the time to investigate the charges alleged by the Walkers. Both letters related to the 2010 survey.

         Upon completion of the Board's investigation, Simila, the Executive Director of the Board, filed a complaint against Erickson on October 28, 2015. The complaint alleged that Erickson violated a number of Idaho statutes and the Idaho Rules of Professional Responsibility for professional engineers and land surveyors. An administrative hearing regarding the complaint was set for June 20, 2016, through June 22, 2016. While the administrative matter was proceeding, Erickson filed a Petition for Judicial Review with the district court, which was dismissed on June 13, 2016, primarily due to a lack of jurisdiction.

         On the first day of the administrative hearing, Erickson orally requested a continuance, on the grounds that the district court entered its June 2016 order dismissing Erickson's petition for judicial review less than one week prior to the administrative hearing. Simila's counsel provided the Board with evidence of an offer it made to vacate and reschedule the June 20, 2016, hearing in return for Erickson agreeing to the date set by the Board. Erickson declined the offer. Therefore, the Board denied his request for a continuance.

         Erickson also moved to disqualify the entire Board, claiming that each member was personally biased against him. The Board denied the motion, although one Board member recused himself from the proceedings. Additionally, Erickson moved to disqualify the Board's expert witness, John Elle, who was also a Board member but participated only as an expert at the hearing. The Board also denied this ...


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