ADAM HOLLEY, Acting Commissioner, West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, Defendant Below, Petitioner
JOSHUA T. FEAGLEY, Plaintiff Below, Respondent
Submitted: September 10, 2019
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.
R. Angotti, Esq. Chad C. Groome, Esq. Angotti & Straface,
L.C. Morgantown, West Virginia Counsel for Respondent
"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).
"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).
"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).
"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).
"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).
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. In response, the
West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) 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.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
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).
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]."
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.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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." Further, "[a]s jurisdictional