This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Georgina Y. Stephens,
Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota,
Filed June 18, 2002
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
Hennepin County District Court
File No. EM-00-04903
Georgina Y. Stephens, 875 Laurel Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 (pro se appellant)
Mark B. Rotenberg, General Counsel, Tracy M. Smith, Associate General Counsel, Thomas J. Schumacher, Associate General Counsel, University of Minnesota, 360 McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak Street Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55455-2006 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Hanson, Judge.
In these two employment cases, pro se appellant challenges the district court’s grant of summary judgment, arguing that the district court erred in holding that both her tort claims and her statutory claims were barred by the res judicata effect of our discharge of her prior writ of certiorari in Stephens v. Bd. of Regents, 614 N.W.2d 764 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. Sept. 26, 2000). We affirm the district court’s dismissal of appellant’s tort claims and bankruptcy discrimination claim in her first complaint, and her claims under the Public Employer Labor Relations Act in her second complaint. We reverse the district court’s dismissal of appellant’s remaining statutory claims in her first complaint. Therefore, we remand appellant’s claims in her first complaint for violations of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, Title VII of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Minnesota Whistleblower Statute, and the Public Employer Labor Relations Act.
In Stephens v. Bd. of Regents, 614 N.W.2d 764 (Minn. App. 2000) (Stephens I), review denied (Minn. Sept. 26, 2000), appellant Georgina Y. Stephens sought certiorari review of the decisions of respondent University of Minnesota (University) to reassign her from her duties as associate vice president and treasurer, and to not renew her contract with the University. We discharged the writ of certiorari because we lacked jurisdiction in certiorari to hear Stephens’ bankruptcy discrimination claim and because certiorari review of her other claims was precluded because she had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the University’s internal grievance process. Id. at 766-67.
Stephens petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court for further review and also for a writ of quo warranto, directing the University to reinstate her. When both petitions were denied, Stephens attempted to pursue further administrative remedies but the University determined that they were time barred. She then filed two actions in the district court. The first action closely resembled the claims that had been alleged in her petition for a writ of certiorari, while the second action focused solely on alleged violations of the Public Employer Labor Relations Act (PELRA) occurring in connection with Stephens’ attempts to pursue further administrative remedies after the discharge of her writ of certiorari. The district court ordered consolidation of the two cases.
The University moved for summary judgment. The district court determined that Stephens I barred all of Stephens’ claims and granted summary judgment for the University. The district court reasoned that it did not have jurisdiction to address Stephens’ contract and contract-related claims because they were within the scope of this court’s exclusive certiorari jurisdiction; that it lacked jurisdiction over Stephens’ numerous tort claims because they were not separate and distinct from her contract claims and, therefore, were likewise within the scope of this court’s exclusive certiorari jurisdiction; that, although Stephens’ statutory claims would normally be within the district court’s jurisdiction, Stephens was barred by res judicata from bringing them in a separate action because she had raised them in her petition for a writ of certiorari and they were, in effect, determined when the writ was discharged; and that Stephens had failed to establish concurrent jurisdiction by the state court over her bankruptcy discrimination claim. This appeal followed.
On appeal from summary judgment, the reviewing court asks whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the district court erred by its application of the law. O’Malley v. Ulland Bros., 549 N.W.2d 889, 892 (Minn. 1996). In making this determination, the reviewing court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993). When deciding a purely legal issue, the reviewing court need not defer to the district court’s decision. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass’n v. Minn. Pub. Utils. Comm’n,358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984)
Stephens argues that the district court improperly dismissed the claims that it identified as contract, contract-related, and common-law tort claims. She challenges the district court’s determination that judicial review of those claims could only be obtained by writ of certiorari.
In discussing the scope of exclusive certiorari jurisdiction, the supreme court has said that no matter how a claim is “cloaked,”
when the alleged breach of the employment contract of a governmental employee results in termination of the claimant’s employment by an executive body which does not have statewide jurisdiction[,] * * * the claimant may contest the employer’s action by certiorari alone, absent statutory authority for a different process.
Willis v. County of Sherburne, 555 N.W.2d 277, 282 (Minn. 1996). This rule of exclusive certiorari jurisdiction applies to the University’s employment decisions. See Shaw v. Bd. of Regents, 594 N.W.2d 187, 192 (Minn. App. 1999) (stating that “[a] breach of contract claim based on a termination decision by the University of Minnesota is reviewed only on a writ of certiorari.”), review denied (Minn. July 28, 1999). It applies equally to tort claims. See Willis, 555 N.W.2d at 282 (analyzing wrongful-discharge claim); see also Dietz v. Dodge County, 487 N.W.2d 237, 240-41 (Minn. 1992) (analyzing both contract and tort claims and discussed thoroughly in Willis).
Stephens’ breach-of-contract, contract-related, and common-law tort claims all arise out of the employment decisions the University made from the time that it placed Stephens on paid leave until it did not renew her contract. Regardless of how these claims are “cloaked,” they all implicate an alleged breach of the employment contract and demand scrutiny of how the University exercised its administrative discretion. See Willis, 555 N.W.2d at 282 (finding alleged breach of contract and layoff procedures necessarily implicate the termination decision); Dietz, 487 N.W.2d at 240-41 (stating that certiorari jurisdiction “stems not from slavish adherence to hypertechnical rules,” but rather the need to evaluate “core discretionary acts on a limited scrutiny basis”). Because these claims (Counts II through XV) are all related to the employment decisions leading up to Stephens’ nonrenewal, they were within this court’s exclusive certiorari jurisdiction in Stephens I and are precluded by the res judicata effect of our discharge of the writ of certiorari. Accordingly, the district court did not err by granting summary judgment dismissing these claims.
Stephens argues that the district court erred by finding that the statutory claims alleged in her first complaint were also barred by res judicata. The district court concluded that, although it normally would have jurisdiction over the statutory claims, judicial estoppel barred them because Stephens had argued “vigorously” in the certiorari proceeding that they were within our certiorari jurisdiction and res judicata barred them because this court had declined to address them in the certiorari proceeding on the grounds that Stephens had failed to brief them. The district court ruled that Stephens I was therefore a final adjudication on the merits of those claims and precluded the assertion of them in this action, whether or not they were truly within our certiorari jurisdiction.
We conclude that the district court had jurisdiction over Stephens’ statutory claims and that they were not precluded by our discharge of her writ of certiorari. As noted in Willis, the statutory claims of a terminated employee may not be reviewed by certiorari where the statute authorizes another process for judicial review. 555 N.W.2d at 282; see also Manteuffel v. City of North St. Paul, 538 N.W.2d 727, 730-31 (Minn. App. 1995) (stating that certiorari is the appropriate method to use when there is no other adequate method of review or remedy, such as a statutory cause of action). While Stephens included these statutory claims in her petition for a writ of certiorari, we do not interpret our discharge of the writ as an adjudication on the merits of those claims. In Stephens I, we declined to decide whether we had jurisdiction of Stephens’ statutory claims because she had not adequately briefed the issues. Our decision to discharge the writ, however, was not based on a theory of waiver, but on the failure of Stephens to exhaust her administrative remedies. This represented an adjudication only of those claims for which such exhaustion was required. The statutory claims do not require such exhaustion.
The University argues that Stephens’ statutory claims are precluded at the district court by judicial estoppel. See Port Auth. v. Harstad, 531 N.W.2d 496, 500 (Minn. App. 1995) (stating that judicial estoppel applies where, absent a change of facts, a party takes a clearly inconsistent position in a subsequent action after convincing the first court to adopt the earlier position), review denied (Minn. June 14, 1995). It is unclear whether, in Minnesota, judicial estoppel applies to the issue of subject-matter jurisdiction. But even if it did, it would not apply here because we did not accept Stephens’ arguments on certiorari jurisdiction over the statutory claims in Stephens I. 614 N.W.2d at 771. We specifically declined to address those claims. Id.
Accordingly, the district court erred by granting summary judgment dismissing the statutory claims (Counts XVI through XXIII and that portion of Court XXIV that is based on a statutory claim).
Stephens argues that the district court erred by finding that it did not have jurisdiction to address her bankruptcy-discrimination claim. In Stephens I, we held that a bankruptcy-discrimination claim was not within our certiorari jurisdiction because the Bankruptcy Act provides a statutory cause of action and, as discussed in Willis, statutory causes of action are not within our certiorari jurisdiction. Stephens I,614 N.W.2d at 771. As a result, Stephens’ bankruptcy-discrimination claim is not precluded by our discharge of her writ of certiorari.
But in Stephens I we said “we question whether any Minnesota state court has jurisdiction to hear Stephens’s claim that the university violated title 11,” [the bankruptcy-discrimination claim] which may be in the “original and exclusive jurisdiction” of the federal court. Id. (citation omitted). After we raised this question in Stephens I, Stephens failed to provide authority to the district court for her argument that state courts have concurrent jurisdiction over bankruptcy-discrimination claims. Her memorandum in opposition to the motion for summary judgment did not address the issue. See Minn. Gen. R. Prac. 115.03(b), (d)(4) (stating that the party opposing summary judgment must provide a memorandum of law that includes that party’s arguments and authorities).
Because Stephens provided no legal authority to the district court to support her argument with respect to this jurisdictional question, which had been clearly identified in Stephens I, the district court properly determined that Stephens had waived any argument of concurrent state court jurisdiction. The district court did not err by granting summary judgment dismissing this claim (Count I).
Stephens argues that the district court erred by ruling that the claims asserted in her second complaint for four alleged violations of PELRA were precluded by res judicata. We need not address that argument because the district court file relating to that complaint contains a notice of dismissal dated May 16, 2001, signed by Stephens’ attorney. Stephens’ argument that the notice of dismissal should not be given effect because it was only intended to reflect the consolidation of the two complaints is contradicted by her attorney’s cover letter to the court, in which he declines to amend the first complaint and unconditionally dismisses the second complaint. The district court did not err by granting summary judgment for the University dismissing the second complaint.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
 See Bode v. State, Dep’t of Natural Res., 612 N.W.2d 862, 868 (Minn. 2000) (stating that collateral attacks must be evaluated “in light of the competing principles of finality and validity”); Wallin v. State, Dep’t of Corr., 598 N.W.2d 393, 404 (Minn. App. 1999) (stating that if judicial estoppel properly applied, it could not vest subject-matter jurisdiction under the facts of that case), review denied (Minn. Oct. 21, 1999); Lara v. Trominski, 216 F.3d 487, 495 n.9 (5th Cir. 2000) (noting the care that must be exercised before applying judicial estoppel to subject-matter jurisdiction and declining to apply it because the party who took the inconsistent position did not convince the court to accept the prior position); Wight v. Bankamerica Corp., 219 F.3d 79, 89-91 (2d Cir. 2000) (recognizing the concern associated with applying judicial estoppel to subject-matter jurisdiction and declining to apply it because the court was not convinced by the initial argument); Lydon v. Boston Sand & Gravel Co., 175 F.3d 6, 12-13 (1st Cir. 1999) (applying judicial estoppel to subject-matter jurisdiction where the parties had previously agreed that state law provided defendant’s exclusive remedy). But see Amgen Inc. v. Ortho Pharm. Corp., No. 95 C 6310, 1997 WL 232755, at *5 (N.D. Ill., May 2, 1997) (stating that judicial estoppel cannot confer subject-matter jurisdiction where none exists).