Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Holley v. Morrison

Supreme Court of West Virginia

April 19, 2019

Adam Holley, Acting Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, Respondent Below, Petitioner
v.
Donald Morrison, Petitioner Below, Respondent

          Ohio County 16-CAP-3

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

         Petitioner Adam Holley, Acting Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles ("DMV"), by counsel Elaine L. Skorich, appeals the Circuit Court of Ohio County's February 28, 2018, order reversing the final order of the Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH"), which affirmed the DMV's order revoking respondent's license.[1] Respondent Donald Morrison, by counsel Gregory A. Gaudino, filed a response. Petitioner filed a reply. On appeal, petitioner contends that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and erred in substituting its judgment for that of the OAH.

         The Court has considered the parties' briefs and record on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. This case satisfies the "limited circumstances" requirement of Rule 21(d) of the Rules of Appellate Procedure and is appropriate for a memorandum decision rather than an opinion. For the reasons expressed below, the decision of the circuit court is reversed, and this case is remanded to the circuit court for entry of an order dismissing this case from its docket for lack of jurisdiction.

         On February 12, 2011, respondent was arrested for driving under the influence ("DUI"), which resulted in the DMV's issuing an order revoking his driving privileges. Respondent requested a hearing before the OAH to challenge the revocation, which was held on July 18, 2012. On March 16, 2016, the OAH affirmed the order of revocation.[2]

         Petitions for review of OAH final orders must be filed "either in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, . . . or in the circuit court of the county in which the petitioner or any one of the petitioners resides or does business." W.Va. Code § 29A-5-4(b). Accordingly, on March 25, 2016, respondent filed a petition for review of the OAH's March 16, 2016, final order in Ohio County asserting that jurisdiction was proper there because he owned "a business known as Left of Center, which regularly transacts business in West Virginia, including in Ohio County."[3] On the same date that he filed his petition for review, respondent moved the circuit court to stay the order revoking his driving privileges.

         The parties appeared for a hearing on respondent's motion to stay on April 6, 2016. Respondent, a resident of the State of Ohio who works in the "pipeline field" as a heavy equipment operator, testified that his work is primarily seasonal. At the time of the hearing, petitioner was employed by Apex, a Nitro, West Virginia-based company, which required his presence in and southeast of New Martinsville, West Virginia. Respondent's employment with Apex began in February of 2016. Prior to Apex, respondent was employed by Snelson from approximately April of 2015 through November of 2015. Although respondent acknowledged that he was "not familiar that much with the county lines," he indicated that he worked for Snelson, a Washington State company, in Moundsville, West Virginia.[4] Respondent was asked, "[H]ow much do you do in Ohio County?" He responded, "[w]e worked the Highlands before Cabela's was built."[5] Respondent also acknowledged that Left of Center, a country music band, disbanded in the fall of 2015. As a result of this testimony, petitioner moved to dismiss respondent's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The circuit court indicated that it would consider the parties' arguments and pertinent authority, and then issue a written order.

         The circuit court issued its order, which granted respondent's motion to stay and denied petitioner's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, on April 15, 2016. In finding that it was vested with subject matter jurisdiction, the court noted that respondent's work with Snelson required travel in and through Ohio County, and "as recently as approximately [December 15, 2015], [respondent] was also actively engaged with his musical band, which played shows throughout Ohio County." The circuit court further noted that "during the pendency of the hearing examiner's decision, [respondent's] primary employment included work within Ohio County where, in addition to traveling there, he operated both on and off-road machinery."

         The circuit court also cited the "inordinate delay of approximately four . . . years in the issuance of the Commissioner's final decision regarding revocation of [respondent's] license" as a basis for finding jurisdiction. The court acknowledged that petitioner "is able to reasonably argue that jurisdiction is not proper in Ohio County for this appeal," but it found that the "the only reason such an argument is viable is the four[-]year delay between the hearing on revocation and the issuance of the DMV Commissioner's decision." The court also recognized that the appeal could be pursued in Kanawha County, but to require that "would effectively foreclose the choice conferred upon [respondent] pursuant to [West Virginia Code § 29A-5-4(b)], and such foreclosure would have been through no fault of [respondent's]."

         After the entry of this order, no further action took place in the circuit court until petitioner moved to dismiss the case on July 26, 2017, for failure to prosecute. The circuit court denied the motion and entered a briefing schedule. In her brief to the circuit court, in addition to arguing that the OAH's final order should be affirmed, petitioner again raised lack of jurisdiction. Respondent argued that the court's earlier ruling on jurisdiction should not be disturbed and that the OAH's final order should be reversed. The circuit court entered an order reversing the OAH's final order on February 28, 2018, which contained no analysis of the jurisdictional issue again raised by petitioner. It is from this order that petitioner appeals.

         Petitioner argues on appeal that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the proceedings below because respondent did not reside or do business in Ohio County in March of 2016 when he filed his petition for review.[6] Respondent testified that the band of which he was a member, and which was the asserted basis for jurisdiction in Ohio County, disbanded in the fall of 2015. The company for which respondent worked at the time he filed his petition for review was based in Nitro, West Virginia, which is located in both Kanawha and Putnam Counties, but he was physically present for that work in New Martinsville, Wetzel County, West Virginia. Respondent testified that he worked in Ohio County before Cabela's was built at the Highlands. Petitioner represents that Cabela's opened in 2004; accordingly, because respondent neither resided nor did business in Ohio County at the time he filed his petition for review, the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.[7]

         This Court, in reviewing a circuit court's order in an administrative appeal, "is bound by the statutory standards contained in W.Va. Code § 29A-5-4(a) and reviews questions of law presented de novo; findings of fact by the administrative officer are accorded deference unless the reviewing court believes the findings to be clearly wrong." Syl. Pt. 1, Muscatell v. Cline, 196 W.Va. 588, 474 S.E.2d 518 (1996). "'Whether a court has subject matter jurisdiction over an issue is a question of law[.]'" In re Guardianship of K.W., 240 W.Va. 501, 506, 813 S.E.2d 154, 159 (2018) (citation omitted). Accordingly, our review of the jurisdictional determination is de novo.

         West Virginia Code § 29A-5-4(a) provides that a party adversely affected by a final order of the OAH is entitled to judicial review. This review commences

by filing a petition, at the election of the petitioner, in either the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia or in the circuit court of the county in which the petitioner or any one of the petitioners resides or does business, or with the judge thereof in vacation, within thirty days after the date upon ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.