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Holley v. Feagley

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

October 21, 2019

ADAM HOLLEY, Acting Commissioner, West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, Defendant Below, Petitioner
v.
JOSHUA T. FEAGLEY, Plaintiff Below, Respondent

          Submitted: September 10, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Monongalia County The Honorable Phillip D. Gaujot Case No. 18-C-178.

          Patrick Morrisey, Esq. Attorney General Elaine L. Skorich, Esq. Assistant Attorney General Charleston, West Virginia Counsel for Petitioner Division of Motor Vehicles.

          John R. Angotti, Esq. Chad C. Groome, Esq. Angotti & Straface, L.C. Morgantown, West Virginia Counsel for Respondent Feagley.

         SYLLABUS

         1. "Where the issue on an appeal from the circuit court is clearly a question of law or involving an interpretation of a statute, we apply a de novo standard of review." Syllabus Point 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie A.L., 194 W.Va. 138');">194 W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 (1995).

         2. "Jurisdiction consists of two elements. One of these elements is jurisdiction of the subject matter and the other is jurisdiction of the person. Jurisdiction of the subject matter must exist as a matter of law. Jurisdiction of the person may be conferred by consent of the parties or the lack of such jurisdiction may be waived." Syllabus Point 4, W.Va. Secondary Sch. Activities Comm'r v. Wagner, 143 W.Va. 508');">143 W.Va. 508, 102 S.E.2d 901 (1958).

         3. "To enable a court to hear and determine an action, suit or other proceeding it must have jurisdiction of the subject matter and jurisdiction of the parties; both are necessary and the absence of either is fatal to its jurisdiction." Syllabus Point 3, State ex rel. Smith v. Bosworth, 145 W.Va. 753');">145 W.Va. 753, 117 S.E.2d 610 (1960).

         4. "When an individual brings a mandamus action seeking to compel the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles to perform a statutory duty which relates to the Division's maintenance of records, and such action is not an administrative appeal pursuant to the West Virginia Administrative Procedures Act, West Virginia Code §§ 29A-1-1 to 29A-7-4 (1998), West Virginia Code §§ 14-2-2(a)(1) and 53-1-2 require that such action shall be brought in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, but such an action cannot be used to circumvent the administrative appeals procedure." Syllabus Point 12, State ex rel. Miller v. Reed, 203 W.Va. 673');">203 W.Va. 673, 510 S.E.2d 507 (1998).

         5. "Whenever it is determined that a court has no jurisdiction to entertain the subject matter of a civil action, the forum court must take no further action in the case other than to dismiss it from the docket." Syllabus Point 1, Hinkle v. Bauer Lumber & Home Bldg. Ctr., Inc., 158 W.Va. 492');">158 W.Va. 492, 211 S.E.2d 705 (1975).

          OPINION

          Walker Chief Justice.

         Joshua T. Feagley petitioned the Circuit Court of Monongalia County for a writ of prohibition to stay further hearing on the revocation of his driver's license.[1] In response, the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV)[2] claimed that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because, under West Virginia Code § 53-1-2, jurisdiction for extraordinary writs related to records maintained by the DMV is only proper in Kanawha County. The circuit court, relying on our Legislature's recent amendment to West Virginia Code § 14-2-2, concluded that jurisdiction was proper in Monongalia County and granted Mr. Feagley's writ of prohibition, preventing further hearing on the revocation of his driver's license. Because West Virginia Code § 14-2-2 is a venue statute and West Virginia Code § 53-1-2 governs subject matter jurisdiction, we find that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and should have dismissed the petition for writ of prohibition. Accordingly, the resulting order of the circuit court is void and must be vacated.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On April 7, 2012, Mr. Feagley was arrested in Monongalia County for driving under the influence of alcohol. On June 11, 2013, the DMV issued an order revoking Mr. Feagley's driver's license for forty-five days, effective July 16, 2013. Mr. Feagley filed a written objection to the order of revocation and requested a hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).

         On March 28, 2018, the OAH scheduled the requested hearing for May 16, 2018. On April 10, 2018, Mr. Feagley moved to continue the hearing because he was on active military duty and unable to appear. On April 13, 2018, Mr. Feagley sought a writ of prohibition from the Circuit Court of Monongalia County against the DMV and Larry Cavender, the Director of Driver Services of the DMV. Specifically, Mr. Feagley requested a "Writ prohibiting the Department [sic] of Motor Vehicles from revoking his operator's license and, further for an order mandating that the Department [sic] of Motor Vehicles expunge any record on [Mr. Feagley's] driving record which is adverse to his interest and which arose [from his DUI arrest]."

         In response, the DMV filed a Notice of Special Limited Appearance, Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs, arguing that the circuit court lacked both personal and subject matter jurisdiction. Following a hearing on June 25, 2018, the circuit court denied the DMV's motion to dismiss and granted Mr. Feagley's petition for a writ of prohibition by order dated July 5, 2018. That order is the basis for this appeal.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court has held that "[w]here the issue on an appeal from the circuit court is clearly a question of law or involving an interpretation of a statute, we apply a de novo standard of review."[3] Further, "[a]s jurisdictional ...


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