Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
American Federation of State, County, and
Municipal Employees Council No. 65, et al.,
Independent School District No. 2154
St. Louis County District Court
File No. C096100462
John M. Colosimo, Colosimo, Patchin, Aronson & Kearney, Ltd., 301 Chestnut Street, Virginia, MN 55972 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
In this appeal from an order denying appellant school district's motions (1) to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, (2) to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and (3) for summary judgment, appellant argues that the challenged school board decision is a quasi-judicial decision that must be reviewed by writ of certiorari. We affirm.
Combined district employees and retirees under age 65 are insured under a comprehensive major medical insurance policy. When the retirees reach age 65, they are automatically enrolled in Medicare (unless they affirmatively refuse coverage) and the school district policy converts into a supplemental policy. Medicare consists of part A and part B. Part A is provided without charge. A premium, which is deducted from the retiree's social security check, is charged for part B coverage. Part B coverage is optional under federal law, but a combined district retiree must enroll in both part A and part B to be eligible for the combined district's supplemental insurance policy, which helps pay expenses that Medicare does not cover.
Beginning in the late 1960's, the Gilbert School District reimbursed retired employees in January for the part B premiums that had been deducted from their social security checks during the previous calendar year. The combined district and employee unions negotiated new collective bargaining agreements.
In January 1994, the combined district reimbursed Gilbert retirees for part B premiums deducted from their social security checks in 1993. But, on April 12, 1994, the combined district board adopted a resolution, which stated:
WHEREAS, Independent School District #2154 is in the process or has completed negotiations with its employee bargaining units with the end result that it will have new collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with all its union employees, and
WHEREAS, certain past practices arose under previous CBAs in both pre-existing school districts. As Independent School District #2154 is a new school district with new bargaining units, it is not practical or feasible to continue pre-existing past practices unless those practices are reduced to writing and included in the applicable CBA.
BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education for Independent School District #2154 goes on record that it is their intent to not be bound by and not honor what are commonly known as "past practices" which arose under collective bargaining agreements negotiated by either of the pre-existing school districts (Independent School District #697 and Independent School District #699) unless said practices are incorporated in new collective bargaining agreements; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Administration is directed to disseminate this resolution to leadership of all exclusive bargaining units within the school district.
On April 19, 1994, the combined district sent a letter and a copy of the approved resolution to employee union representatives. The letter did not refer to any specific past practice that would be discontinued.
In January 1995, the combined district did not reimburse Gilbert retirees for plan B premiums paid during 1994. AFSCME filed a grievance requesting that the combined district reimburse retirees in accordance with the past practice of the Gilbert School District. The combined district responded that the AFSCME retirees and AFSCME had no standing to bring a grievance, that the issue could not be grieved, and that the combined district refused to allow the grievance to proceed. Respondents then brought a declaratory judgment action in district court seeking to compel the combined district to pay for plan B premiums, in accordance with the practice of the former school district.
The combined district moved to dismiss respondents' claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, contending that respondents must obtain review of a political subdivision's quasi-judicial decision by obtaining a writ of certiorari from this court. The district court determined that the challenged decision was not a quasi-judicial decision and denied the motion.
School board decisions must be quasi-judicial in nature to be reviewable by certiorari. Minnesota Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc. v. Board of Educ., 567 N.W.2d 761, 763 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. Aug. 26, 1997).
[T]he scope of the writ of certiorari is confined to review of proceedings that are judicial or quasi-judicial in character and is not available to review legislative or purely ministerial acts of administrative agencies or officers. To render the proceedings of an administrative agency judicial in their nature, they must affect the legal or property rights of the citizen in a manner analogous to the courts acting judicially.
Mahnerd v. Canfield, 297 Minn. 148, 152, 211 N.W.2d 177, 179-80 (1973) (citation omitted).
It may be said generally that the exercise of judicial functions is to determine what the law is, and what the legal rights of parties are, with respect to a matter in controversy; and whenever an officer is clothed with that authority, and undertakes to determine those questions, he acts judicially.
State ex rel. Board of County Comm'rs. v. Dunn, 86 Minn. 301, 304, 90 N.W. 772, 773 (1902).
The supreme court has recently explained that quasi-judicial conduct is marked by an investigation into a disputed claim and a decision binding on the parties. Even though the phrase "quasi-judicial act" has sometimes been so broadly defined that it can be said to include almost any administrative decision based on evidentiary facts, it seems to us that we would be well-advised today to apply the term only to those administrative decisions which are based on evidentiary facts and which resolve disputed claims of rights.
Meath v. Harmful Substance Compensation Bd., 550 N.W.2d 275, 279 (Minn. 1996). Implicit in a quasi-judicial decision is the application of a prescribed standard. See id. at 280 (Anderson, J., concurring specially) (distinguishing between quasi-judicial and legislative functions).
We conclude that the school board decision not to be bound by and not to honor the past practices of the Eveleth and Gilbert school districts was not a quasi-judicial decision. In adopting the April 12, 1994, resolution, the school board did not investigate a disputed claim and render a decision binding on the parties to the dispute. The board did not determine what the law is and what the rights of parties are with respect to a matter in controversy.
The resolution itself does not identify any party who asserted a claim to have the past practices of the Eveleth or Gilbert school districts continued. Nor does it specify any past practice that will no longer be honored. There is no evidence that the school board acted as a factfinding body to determine the legal rights of an identified party with respect to the past practices of the individual school districts.
Rather than investigating a disputed claim and rendering a decision binding on the parties, the school board adopted a resolution that states its position with regard to the general issue of past practices. The decision to adopt the resolution was not a quasi-judicial decision subject to review by writ of certiorari.
Appellant claims that because this is a "teacher-related" matter, requiring resolution of conflicts between the rights of the retired Gilbert teachers to reimbursement for part B premiums and the needs of the school district to conserve funds and treat Gilbert and Eveleth retirees consistently, it is quasi-judicial. Whether this is a teacher-related matter, however, is not determinative; the fundamental requirement remains that the decision of the executive body be quasi-judicial in nature. Associated Builders & Contractors, 567 N.W.2d at 763.