This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Education Minnesota, et al.,
Cheri Pierson Yecke, Commissioner,
Minnesota Department of Education, et al.,
Filed June 7, 2005
Ramsey County District Court
File No. C0-03-10879
Harley M. Ogata, Education Minnesota, 41 Sherburne Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55103 (for appellants)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Steven B. Liss, Scott R. Goings, Assistant Attorneys General, 1200 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2130 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellants, Education Minnesota, the Burnsville and Hopkins school districts, and two taxpayers, challenge by declaratory judgment and writ of quo warranto the Department of Education Commissioner’s certification of an on-line learning program in the Houston school district. Because the commissioner’s certification was a quasi-judicial action from which review by writ of certiorari was available, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of appellants’ challenge on the ground that it should have been brought by writ of certiorari to this court.
D E C I S I O N
Writ of certiorari review in the court of appeals is generally the exclusive method by which to obtain review of a quasi-judicial action:
Unless otherwise provided by statute or appellate rule, to obtain judicial review of an administrative agency’s quasi-judicial decision, a party must petition the court of appeals for a writ of certiorari. If no statute or rule expressly vests judicial review in the district court, this court has exclusive certiorari jurisdiction.
If a certiorari appeal is available, a declaratory judgment action will not be considered. See Dokmo v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 11, 459 N.W.2d 671, 677-78 (Minn. 1990) (concluding that where writ of certiorari is the appropriate method to obtain review, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide a declaratory judgment action). And certiorari is generally the only way to challenge the actions of municipalities, school districts, and other executive bodies. See id. at 676; Dietz, 487 N.W.2d at 239 n.3.
supreme court has emphasized that de novo review of agency actions is
incompatible with constitutional principles of separate governmental
powers. Dokmo, 459 N.W.2d at
674. “We have consistently viewed with
disfavor statutes which specify trials de novo and which attempt to confer
original jurisdiction on trial courts over policy matters which are the
responsibility of the legislative and executive branches.”
three indicia of a quasi-judicial action are: “(1) investigation into a disputed claim and
weighing of evidentiary facts; (2) application of those facts to a prescribed
standard; and (3) a binding decision regarding the disputed claim.”
Here, the Minnesota Department of Education established a review team of its employees and outside reviewers to consider applications to certify on-line program providers under Minn. Stat. § 124D.095, subd. 7 (2004). The On-Line Learning Option Act establishes criteria for certification including that the program aligns with state academic standards, contributes to grade progression, and has equivalent standards for instruction, curriculum, and assessment requirements as other courses offered to enrolled students. Minn. Stat. § 124D.095, subd. 7.
applicants applied for certification.
The review team recommended to an assistant commissioner of education
that 15 of the 18 applicants be certified as on-line learning providers. The assistant commissioner forwarded the
recommendations to the deputy commissioner and then to the commissioner who
certified the 15 programs including that of the
second and third prongs for quasi-judicial action were also met. The second prong requires application of
facts to a prescribed standard.
Appellants argue further that even if Education Minnesota was required to seek a writ of certiorari as a party to the commissioner of education’s decision, the other appellants, who were not parties to the decision, lacked standing to seek a writ and therefore could bring a declaratory judgment. We disagree. Appellants cite no authority for the proposition that alleged lack of standing to seek a writ creates jurisdiction to bring a declaratory judgment action where a writ of certiorari is the exclusive avenue for review. And as cited above, our caselaw makes clear that review of a quasi-judicial decision of an administrative body can only be obtained by petitioning this court for a writ of certiorari.
also attempt to challenge by writ of quo warranto the commissioner’s
interpretation of terms in the statute which, they allege, permitted the commissioner
to improperly certify the
Finally, because this matter was not properly before the district court, we do not address the district court’s alternative decision denying appellants relief on the merits. Rather, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of appellants’ challenge on the ground that the action should have been brought by writ of certiorari to this court.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.