This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Rosemary Feehan, et al.,
City of St. Mary’s Point, et al.,
Affirmed; motion granted
Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Washington County District Court
File No. C001006519
Jon Erik Kingstad, 7650 Currell Boulevard, Suite 300-M, Woodbury, MN 55125 (for appellants)
Mark J. Vierling, Eckberg, Lammers, Briggs, Wolff & Vierling, P.L.L.P., 1835 Northwestern Avenue, Stillwater, MN 55082 (attorney pro se)
Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
Alleging violations of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, appellants Rosemary Feehan and David Nelson sued respondent Mark Vierling in his capacity as city attorney for the City of St. Mary’s Point. The district court found that Vierling was not liable under the act and granted his motion to dismiss the lawsuit. After the court denied the appellants’ motion for amended findings, a new trial, and to compel discovery, they appealed. On appeal, Vierling moved to strike issues not raised in the district court. Because the court did not err in its application of the data practices act, we affirm. We also grant Vierling’s motion to strike issues not properly before us.
Appellants Rosemary Feehan and David Nelson brought an action against respondent city attorney Mark Vierling as a responsible authority under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA), seeking injunctive relief and compelling compliance with Minn. Stat. § 13.08, subds. 2, 4 (2002).
The district court found that Vierling was not a responsible authority and concluded that a city attorney, unless designated as a responsible authority, does not come within the class of prospective MGDPA defendants; thus, appellants’ complaint failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted. On August 15, 2002, the district court denied appellants’ motion for amended findings, a new trial, and to compel discovery.
Appellants raise five issues on appeal, arguing (1) that a city attorney is a responsible party under the MGDPA; (2) that because the city attorney is a responsible party, the appellants have stated a claim on which relief may be granted; (3) that Vierling and the district court’s law clerk violated ethical duties resulting in a denial of appellants’ due-process rights; (4) that Vierling violated Minn. Stat. § 549.211, subd. 4(a) (2002); and (5) that the district court violated the Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
After appellants filed this appeal, Vierling moved to strike the last three issues from appellants’ brief on the ground that the issues are not properly before this court. On January 17, 2003, this court deferred Vierling’s motion to strike, to be considered with the merits of this appeal.
D E C I S I O N
The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA)
regulates the collection, creation, storage, maintenance, dissemination, and access to government data in state agencies, statewide systems, and political subdivisions.
Minn. Stat. § 13.01, subd. 3 (2002). The purpose of the MGDPA is
to balance the rights of individuals * * * to protect personal information from indiscriminate disclosure with the right of the public to know what the government is doing.
Demers v. City of Minneapolis, 468 N.W.2d 71, 72 (Minn. 1991) (citations omitted).
The MGDPA requires that
[t]he responsible authority in every state agency [and] political subdivision * * * shall keep records containing government data in such an arrangement and condition as to make them easily accessible for convenient use.
Minn. Stat. § 13.03, subd. 1 (2002) (emphasis added).
The district court correctly found that the MGDPA permits “a political subdivision, responsible authority, statewide system, or state agency” to be held liable for damages arising from a violation of the MGDPA. See Minn. Stat. § 13.08, subd. 1 (2002).
There is no dispute that the City of St. Mary’s Point (city) is a political subdivision within the meaning of the MGDPA. Rather, appellants argue that, as the city attorney, Vierling is a “state agency” under Minn. Stat. § 13.02, subd. 17 (2002), and thus a responsible authority within the MGDPA as well.
Appellants’ argument raises an issue of statutory interpretation. Statutory interpretation is a question of law subject to de novo review. Houston v. Int’l Data Transfer Corp., 645 N.W.2d 144, 149 (Minn. 2002). Courts must first look to the language of the statute to determine its meaning and to “ascertain and effectuate the intention of the legislature.” Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2002). If the meaning of a statute is plain and unambiguous on its face, “judicial construction is neither necessary nor proper.” Occhino v. Grover, 640 N.W.2d 357, 359 (Minn. App. 2002) (citations omitted), review denied (Minn. May 28, 2002).
Minn. Stat. § 13.02 (2002) defines “state agency” as “the state, the University of Minnesota, and any office, officer, department, division, bureau, board, commission, authority, district or agency of the state,” but this definition does not impart responsibility to a state agency. Id., subd. 17. Rather, Minn. Stat. § 13.02, subd. 16, entitled “[r]esponsible authority,” defines who is the responsible authority within those agencies under the MGDPA.
Responsible Authority under the MGDPA.
The MGDPA defines “responsible authority” of a state agency as the
state official designated by law or by the commissioner as the individual responsible for the collection, use and dissemination of any set of data on individuals, government data, or summary data.
Id., subd. 16 (emphasis added).
The MGDPA defines “responsible authority” of any political subdivision as
the individual designated by the governing body of that political subdivision as the individual responsible for the collection, use, and dissemination of any set of data on individuals, government data, or summary data, unless otherwise provided by state law.
Id. (emphasis added).
Looking to the language of the statute, it is clear and unambiguous on its face that data collected and held by all state agencies and political subdivisions are accessed through a responsible authority who is expressly designated as such either by law, the commissioner, or a governing body. There is nothing in this record that shows that Vierling was designated a responsible authority either by law, the commissioner, or a governing body. Thus, Vierling cannot be held liable under Minn. Stat. § 13.02, subd. 16.
The district court correctly concluded that the city is a political subdivision as defined by the MGDPA and that, in this case, the city attorney is not a responsible authority within the plain meaning of the statute.
Appellants also argue that Vierling, as city attorney, has a duty to enforce the MGDPA because Vierling assumes the role of responsible authority based on his relationship with the city as city attorney.
Although the statute clearly and unambiguously contemplates and identifies the parties who are to be responsible on behalf of the state agencies under Minn. Stat. § 13.02, subd. 16, the MGDPA does allow for this responsibility to be privatized by contract. Under Minn. Stat. § 13.05, subd. 11 (2002), the MGDPA allows a political subdivision, responsible authority, statewide system, or state agency to “contract with a private person to perform any of its functions.” When such a contract exists, the government entity
shall include in the contract terms that make it clear that all of the data created, collected, received, stored, used, maintained, or disseminated by the private person in performing those functions is subject to the requirements of this chapter and that the private person must comply with those requirements as if it were a government entity.
Id., subd. 11(a).
The appellants have not shown that a contract existed between Vierling and the city that designated Vierling as the responsible authority. The statute provides that a government entity “shall include in the contract terms that make it clear” that a private person is performing those duties subject to the “requirements as if it were a government entity.” Id.
The MGDPA expressly states that it
does not create a duty on the part of the private person to provide access to public data to the public if the public data are available from the government entity, except as required by the terms of the contract.
Id., subd. 11(b).
Vierling cannot be held to be a responsible authority as a private person absent a contract expressly creating this duty under the MGDPA. No such contract exists. Thus, Vierling cannot be a responsible authority under Minn. Stat. § 13.05, subd. 11.
The language of the MGDPA also includes a section addressing the role of an attorney when “acting in a professional capacity for the state” with respect to the “use, collection, storage, and dissemination of data.” Minn. Stat. § 13.393 (2002). This section does not give responsible-authority status to an attorney based solely on an attorney-client relationship absent a contractual delegation of duties by the state agency or political subdivision. Thus, under this section, Vierling is not a responsible authority.
The record shows that Vierling was acting exclusively in the capacity of counsel to the city in claims against it involving the MGDPA without any responsible-authority delegation. Vierling does not come within any statutory definition of responsible authority.
Because Vierling is not a responsible authority under the MGDPA, the appellants’ second argument that there is a claim for which relief may be granted must also fail. Their claim would be viable only if asserted against a responsible authority.
A complaint failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted must be dismissed. Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02 (e). This court’s review of a complaint dismissed for that reason
must only determine whether the complaint sets forth a legally sufficient claim for relief. * * * A claim prevails against a motion to dismiss if it is possible on any evidence [that] might be produced, consistent with the pleader’s theory, to grant the relief demanded.
Geldert v. Am. Nat’l Bank, 506 N.W.2d 22, 25 (Minn. App. 1993) (citations omitted), review denied (Minn. Nov. 16, 1993).
Here, the district court correctly found that Vierling is not a responsible authority under the MGDPA, and correctly concluded that appellants’ complaint does not set forth a legally sufficient claim for relief.
Appellants’ remaining issues allege that Vierling violated Minn. Stat. § 549.211, subd. 4(a) (2002); appellants’ due process rights; and his ethical duties as a city prosecutor; and that the district court violated Minn. Stat. § 542.13 (2002), Minn. R. Civ. P. 63.02, and Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct. None of these issues were raised in the district court. Because appellants had ample opportunity to raise these issues in the district court and failed to do so, these issues are not properly before this court. Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (holding that this court should decline to hear claims not presented to the district court). Vierling’s motion to strike these issues must be granted.
Affirmed; motion granted.
 We note that the Court of Appeals does not have jurisdiction over matters involving the Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct or the ethical duties of an attorney. These are matters within the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Supreme Court, acting in its role of governing the practice of law.