This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




Ann Sylstad, et al.,



Michael Johnson and James E. Johnson,

d/b/a Emerald Farms,


The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency,


Filed May 18, 1999


Crippen, Judge

Clearwater County District Court

File No. C398194

Richard C. Mollin, 114 North Johnson, Fosston, MN 56542 (for appellants)

Zenas Baer, Randall Knutson, Zenas Baer and Associates, 331 Sixth Street, Box 249, Hawley, MN 56549 (for respondents Johnson)

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, John K. Lampe, Assistant Attorney General, 900 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Minnesota Pollution Control Agency)

Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.



Appellants, owners of land located within 5,000 feet of a hog feedlot,[1] challenge the trial court's denial of a writ of mandamus that would compel the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to revoke a certificate of compliance for the feedlot owners, claiming that the respondent owners failed to provide notice to their neighbors as required by Minn. Stat. § 116.07, subd. 7a (1998). Because appellants have not shown that they are beneficially interested in the relief they seek, we affirm.


The Johnsons, respondent owners, submitted an application for construction and operation of an animal feedlot to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in February 1998. In March 1998, Jim Johnson wrote a letter to the MPCA, stating that the Johnsons had complied with the statutory notice provisions contained within Minn. Stat. § 116.07, subd. 7a (1998), by talking to all of the neighbors within 5,000 feet of the proposed project. The letter implied that many of these neighbors had been contacted at a January 1997 public meeting that the Johnsons held to discuss changes in their farming operation.

In April 1998, the MPCA granted the Johnsons an MPCA certificate of compliance for the feedlot operation. In June 1998, appellants' attorney, Richard Mollin, wrote a letter to the MPCA requesting "immediate review and revocation" of the Johnsons' certificate of compliance, based partly on failure to provide statutory notice. Later in June, the MPCA sent a letter to the Johnsons requesting information about Mollin's allegations. The matter was brought before the MPCA Enforcement Forum, and, in August 1998, the MPCA issued a notice of violation concerning the Johnsons' incomplete and untimely notice to neighbors.

Appellants commenced this action in July 1998, requesting injunctive relief against the Johnsons and a writ of mandamus to compel the MPCA to revoke the Johnsons' certificate of compliance. The trial court denied the writ and dismissed the suit. This appeal challenges only the denial of the writ of mandamus.


A trial court's order in a mandamus case will be reversed only where there is no evidence reasonably tending to sustain its finding. Tyo v. Ilse, 380 N.W.2d 895, 897 (Minn. App. 1986) (citing State ex rel. Banner Grain Co. v. Houghton, 142 Minn. 28, 30, 170 N.W. 853, 853 (1919)). In deciding issues of law, this court is not bound by the trial court's conclusions. A.J. Chromy Constr. Co. v. Commercial Mechanical Servs., Inc., 260 N.W.2d 579, 582 (Minn. 1977). But a reviewing court is bound to accept the trial court's conclusions of law based on findings that are not clearly erroneous. In re Estate of Hoffbeck, 415 N.W.2d 447, 449 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Jan. 28, 1988).

The issuance of a writ of mandamus is governed by Minn. Stat. § 586.01 (1998), which states that the writ may be issued "to compel the performance of an act which the law specially enjoins as a duty." In order to receive a writ, there must be a legal duty to perform the requested act. See Friends of Animals & Their Env't v. Nichols, 350 N.W.2d 489, 491 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. Dec. 20, 1984) [hereinafter FATE]. Likewise, a writ "shall not issue in any case where there is a plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law." Minn. Stat. § 586.02 (1998). Finally, especially significant to this case, a writ of mandamus is available only to a "party beneficially interested." Id.

There being no showing of benefit in the immediate case, the matter can be disposed of as a proposition of law that we review independently. Appellants' showing of a benefit is twice flawed. First, as respondent alleges, appellants have failed to show any immediate injury to their property. A person whose legitimate interest is "injured in fact" has standing to pursue a claim. Byrd v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 194, 495 N.W.2d 226, 230 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. Apr. 20, 1993). Second, as the trial court determined, appellants have failed to show that the statute provides any process that will provide them relief. See Winnetka Partners Ltd. Partnership v. County of Hennepin, 538 N.W.2d 912, 915 (Minn. 1995) (stating that a writ of mandamus "will be denied where it is obvious that it will prove to be futile, unavailing, and ineffective").

Having shown no benefit, appellants are not entitled to relief. See FATE, 350 N.W.2d at 492 (petitioner must be able to show with certainty that it is a beneficially interested party in a mandamus proceeding). The absence of any showing of benefit for a writ of mandamus is tantamount to a lack of standing. See Snyder's Drug Stores, Inc. v. Minnesota State Bd. of Pharmacy, 301 Minn. 28, 32, 221 N.W.2d 162, 165 (1974) (adopting injury-in-fact test for standing). As a result, we need not proceed further to review questions of (a) whether appellants could have pursued an alternative approach, or (b) whether the MPCA was under a clear duty.


[1] A number of appellants are trustees of estates that include these parcels of land.