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.

Division of Justice and Community Services v. Fairmont State University

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

November 21, 2019

DIVISION OF JUSTICE AND COMMUNITY SERVICES, and LAW ENFORCEMENT PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS SUBCOMMITTEE Petitioners
v.
FAIRMONT STATE UNIVERSITY, Respondent

          Submitted: September 11, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Marion County The Honorable Patrick N. Wilson, Judge Civil Action No. CC-24-2017-AA-1

          Patrick Morrisey Attorney General Kelli D. Talbot Senior Deputy Attorney General Charleston, West Virginia Counsel for the Petitioners

          John F. Dascoli, Esq. Charleston, West Virginia Counsel for Amicus Curiae West Virginia State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, and West Virginia Deputy Sheriffs' Association

          Rebecca Pomeroy, Esq. Bailey & Glasser LLP Charleston, West Virginia Counsel for the Respondent

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. "On appeal of an administrative order from a circuit court, this Court 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." Syllabus Point 1, Muscatell v. Cline, 196 W.Va. 588, 474 S.E.2d 518 (1996).

         2. "In cases where the circuit court has [reversed] the result before the administrative agency, this Court reviews the final order of the circuit court and the ultimate disposition by it of an administrative law case under an abuse of discretion standard and reviews questions of law de novo." Syllabus Point 2, Muscatell v. Cline, 196 W.Va. 588, 474 S.E.2d 518 (1996).

         3. "The primary object in construing a statute is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the Legislature." Syllabus Point 1, Smith v. State Workmen's Comp. Comm'r, 159 W.Va. 108, 219 S.E.2d 361 (1975).

         4. "Statutes which relate to the same subject matter should be read and applied together so that the Legislature's intention can be gathered from the whole of the enactments." Syllabus Point 3, Smith v. State Workmen's Comp. Comm 'r, 159 W.Va. 108, 219 S.E.2d 361 (1975).

         5. "Where the language of a statute is free from ambiguity, its plain meaning is to be accepted and applied without resort to interpretation." Syllabus Point 2, Crockett v. Andrews, 153 W.Va. 714, 172 S.E.2d 384 (1970).

         6. "As a general rule of statutory construction, the word 'may' inherently connotes discretion and should be read as conferring both permission and power. The Legislature's use of the word 'may' usually renders the referenced act discretionary, rather than mandatory, in nature." Syllabus Point 1, Pioneer Pipe, Inc. v. Swain, 237 W.Va. 722, 791 S.E.2d 168 (2016).

         7. "Administrative agencies and their executive officers are creatures of statute and delegates of the Legislature. Their power is dependent upon statutes, so that they must find within the statute warrant for the exercise of any authority which they claim. They have no general or common-law powers but only such as have been conferred upon them by law expressly or by implication." Syllabus Point 3, Mountaineer Disposal Serv., Inc. v. Dyer, 156 W.Va. 766, 197 S.E.2d 111 (1973).

         8. The Law-Enforcement Training and Certification Act, West Virginia Code §§ 30-29-1 to -13, does not authorize the Law-Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee of the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Correction to deny an application to establish and operate a law-enforcement training academy that otherwise meets the standards established under West Virginia Code § 30-29-3(a) (2015).

          OPINION

          HUTCHISON, JUSTICE

         In this appeal from the Circuit Court of Marion County we are asked to examine the Law-Enforcement Training and Certification Act ("the Act"), contained in West Virginia Code §§ 30-29-1 to -13. Pursuant to the Act, a state university decided to create a new law-enforcement-training academy for senior university students majoring in criminal justice studies. The university filed an application with the state agency that oversees law-enforcement training, seeking authorization to establish and operate the academy. The proposed academy met or exceeded the requirements of both the Act and the regulations adopted under the Act. However, the state agency refused the application, claiming that there was "no need" for a new academy.

         The circuit court reversed the state agency's decision, finding it was arbitrary, capricious, and unsupported by law, and ordered that the agency approve the university's application. As set forth below, we find no error and affirm the circuit court.[1]

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The petitioner in this case is a government agency the parties call "LEPS" or the "LEPS subcommittee," their abbreviation for the Law-Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee of the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Correction. See W.Va. Code §§ 30-29-1(5) and (9) (2018).[2] The LEPS subcommittee exists, in part, to "[r]eview and administer programs for qualification, training and certification of law-enforcement officers in the state[.]" W.Va. Code § 30-29-2(a)(1) (2015). Under West Virginia law, "a person may not be employed as a law-enforcement officer by any West Virginia law-enforcement agency . . . unless the person is certified" by LEPS "as having met the minimum entry level law-enforcement qualification and training program requirements[.]" W.Va. Code § 30-29-5(a) (2015).

         LEPS also approves and authorizes the academies that conduct training for law-enforcement officers.[3] By statute, LEPS is required to promulgate rules that "[e]stablish standards governing the establishment and operation of the law-enforcement training academies, including regional locations throughout the state[.]" W.Va. Code § 30-29-3(a)(2) (2015) (emphasis added). LEPS is also required to create rules setting the qualifications for instructors at the training academies. W.Va. Code § 30-29-3(a)(3). By statute, the rules promulgated by LEPS must include "standards governing the training, firearms qualification and initial . . . professional certification" of new law-enforcement officers, as well as "the entry-level law-enforcement training curricula." W.Va. Code § 30-29-3(a)(6). For instance, by rule, LEPS currently requires entry-level law-enforcement officers to receive a minimum of 850 hours of training. 149 C.S.R. § 2.7.1 (2018).[4]

         LEPS currently authorizes the operation of only one entry-level law-enforcement-officer-training academy: the West Virginia State Police Academy.

         On February 25, 2016, respondent Fairmont State University filed an application with LEPS seeking authorization to establish and operate a new law-enforcement-officer-training academy. Fairmont State wanted to offer an entry-level training program for students who were in their senior year and pursuing a Bachelor of Science criminal justice degree.

         The parties agree that Fairmont State's 2016 application proposed a training program that met or exceeded the guidelines established by LEPS. Specifically, Fairmont State students majoring in criminal justice would be required to complete a total of 1, 210 hours of law-enforcement coursework. Fairmont State emphasized that students would have to make a four-year university commitment to the field of criminal studies. Only after completing the foundational coursework would Fairmont State permit students, during one semester of their senior year, to complete an additional 805 hours of academy-specific classroom courses and 405 hours of foundational law-enforcement coursework. The university's proposed training program specified that no student would be permitted to enroll for just one semester to take the police-academy-only courses.

         On June 10, 2016, LEPS denied Fairmont State's application to create a new law-enforcement-training academy. In a letter to Fairmont State, the LEPS subcommittee declared it had reached a consensus that the university's proposed academy was simply not necessary. The members of LEPS expressed their belief that the State Police Academy "fully meets the needs of the demand for the training and certification of entry level officers within the state[.]"[5]

         Fairmont State appealed the denial of its application to the director of the Division of Justice and Community Services (the agency that, effectively, oversaw the LEPS subcommittee and the Governor's Committee).[6] The director subsequently issued a recommended decision to the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Correction, and recommended affirming the ...


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.