This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).


Paul M. Brustad,


Janeen Rosas, et al,

Koch Industries, Inc.,

Filed December 28, 1999
Anderson, Judge

Ramsey County District Court
File No. C5-98-11736

John D. Cann, 570 Asbury Street, #208, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for appellant)

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Richard L. Varco, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106 (for respondents Rosas and Minnesota Department of Human Rights)

Patricia A. Burke, John R. Neve, Rider, Bennett, Egan & Arundel, LLP, 2000 Lincoln Centre, 333 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402; and

Mark V. Holden, Koch Industries, Inc., 4111 E. 37th Street North, Wichita, KS 67220 (for respondent Koch Industries)

Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.[*]

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant challenges the district court’s dismissal of his claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. Because appellant (1) lacks jurisdiction to challenge the administrative decision, and (2) failed to assert a claim upon which relief could be granted under the personnel records law, we affirm.


This appeal arose from an age-discrimination claim appellant Paul Brustad filed with respondent Minnesota Department of Human Rights (department) against his former employer respondent Koch Industries (Koch). Koch terminated appellant’s employment in August 1996. In July 1997, appellant filed his age discrimination claim. In responding to the allegations, Koch submitted 29 pages of performance evaluations documenting appellant’s "poor performance" as an employee.

On October 20, 1997, appellant filed a rebuttal with the department, challenging the submission of the performance evaluations. Prior to filing his claim with the department, appellant had requested a copy of his personnel file. Koch provided appellant with copies of payroll, savings and insurance information, but not the performance evaluations. In his rebuttal, appellant complained that Koch, because of nondisclosure of the performance evaluations, was prohibited from submitting the performance evaluations to the department under Minnesota’s personnel records law, Minn. Stat. § 181.963 (1996).

In July 1998, the department issued a no-probable-cause determination on the age-discrimination claim. The determination was based on appellant’s poor performance and lack of direct evidence of age bias. Appellant requested department reconsideration. The department reaffirmed its no-probable-cause determination, noting that appellant had not submitted new evidence to justify a different conclusion.

In November 1998 appellant filed suit in district court, requesting declaratory and injunctive relief against both the department and Koch. Appellant challenged the right of the department to consider, and Koch’s submission of, the performance evaluations. Upon the department’s motion, the district court dismissed appellant’s claim for lack of jurisdiction. The court also granted Koch’s motion for summary judgment that appellant had failed to file a claim for relief under the personnel records law.



We first review the district court’s dismissal of appellant’s claims for declaratory and injunctive relief arising out of the department’s use of the prohibited personnel records. The court explained that it lacked jurisdiction to review an appeal from an administrative decision. While we affirm the court’s decision to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, we reach this decision for separate reasons.

"Subject-matter jurisdiction is ‘a court’s power to hear and determine cases of the general class or category to which the proceedings in question belong.’" Bode v. Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources, 594 N.W.2d 257, 259 (Minn. App. 1999) (quotation omitted), review granted (Minn. Aug. 18, 1999). Subject matter jurisdiction relies on the "‘authority to hear and determine a particular class of actions and the particular questions which the court assumes to decide.’" Id. (quoting Robinette v. Price, 214 Minn. 521, 526, 8 N.W.2d 800, 804 (1943)).

We begin by examining the district court’s analysis of the statutory framework governing appeals from administrative decisions. Generally, appeal from an administrative decision is to the court of appeals and only by writ of certiorari. Minn. Stat. §§14.63-.69 (1996); see Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 115. Such an appeal is not a common-law writ, but is a statutory remedy the provisions of which are strictly construed. See, e.g., In re License Applications of Polk County Ambulance Serv., 548 N.W.2d 300, 301 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Nov. 20, 1996).

The district court ruled that appellant had failed to follow the statutory guidelines for appealing from an administrative decision, and that the only forum with the power to grant relief was the court of appeals. The district court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider appellant’s claim.[1]

Yet, on appeal, we do not focus on the district court’s conclusion that appellant had chosen the wrong forum and procedure, but instead hold that appellant has failed to establish a cognizable claim.

The district court concluded incorrectly that the department’s action constituted a quasi-judicial act. The supreme court recently reexamined the principles which allow courts to differentiate between quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial acts in Minnesota Ctr. for Envtl. Advocacy v. Metropolitan Council, 587 N.W.2d 838 (Minn. 1999).

Met Council summarized the indicia of quasi-judicial conduct: "(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." 587 N.W.2d at 842 (relying on a separate concurrence in Meath v. Harmful Substance Compensation Bd., 550 N.W.2d 275, 277-280 (Minn. 1996)).

The department does not challenge that its no-probable-cause determination satisfied the first two Met Council factors. But, as to the third factor, an employee claiming age discrimination is provided a separate avenue of redress to pursue an individual civil claim against an employer, regardless of the department’s decision. See Minn. Stat. § 363.14, subd. 1(2) (1996). Because the no-probable-cause decision does not result in a binding, final decision which affects appellant’s rights, but only prohibits an administrative remedy, the action here is quasi-legislative and not quasi-judicial. See Met Council, 587 N.W.2d at 842.

Certiorari review of an administrative decision is available only in the wake of judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings and actions. Id. Review is not available for legislative or administrative actions. Id. This court lacks jurisdiction to consider the claim and any related issues.[2]

Personnel Records Claim

Next, we review the district court’s grant of Koch’s motion for summary judgment on appellant’s personnel records claim. On appeal from summary judgment, a reviewing court must determine whether the district court erred in its application of the law and whether there are any genuine issues of material fact. State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990). In doing so, the appellate court views "the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was granted." Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993).

Appellant had sought declaratory and injunctive relief for Koch’s alleged violation of Minnesota’s personnel records law. See Minn. Stat. §§ 181.960-.966 (1996). In an administrative proceeding, an employer is prohibited from using "[i]nformation properly belonging in an employee’s personnel record that was omitted from the personnel record provided by an employer to an employee for review." Minn. Stat. § 181.963.

Yet, even if we assume that Koch violated this subsection when it omitted the performance evaluations from the personnel records provided appellant, appellant has failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted under this law. The remedies section of the personnel records law limits relief to "actual damages only." Minn. Stat. § 181.965, subd. 1(1). No claim for such damages has been asserted here and therefore, as a matter of law, appellant has failed to state a legally cognizable claim for relief.[3]

Finally, because of our decision on the subject of jurisdiction, we need not reach Koch’s mootness claim.


[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] As a collateral note, the district court additionally reasoned that appellant was prohibited by statute from appealing the department's no-probable-cause decision. The statutory framework empowers the department to pursue age discrimination claims after the department has concluded that probable cause exists to support such claim. Minn. Stat. § 363.06, subd. 4 (1996). A party is entitled to request a reconsideration of this finding of no-probable cause. Id., subd. 4(2) (1996). But after a denial, a party may no longer pursue an administrative remedy because the legislature has provided that a commissioner's decision of no probable cause "shall not be appealed to the court of appeals pursuant to * * * sections 14.63 to 14.68." Id., see also Zizak v. Despatch Industries, Inc., 427 N.W.2d 755, 756 (Minn. App. 1988) (analogizing in dicta that a party is precluded from appealing a no probable cause finding), review denied (Minn. Oct. 26, 1988).

[2] Similarly, we reject appellant's argument that he is allowed declaratory relief to correct the department's erroneous consideration of the personnel records. Such a decision would provide the district court de novo review of an administrative decision, which is prohibited as an impermissible inhibition of a statutorily assigned duty. Town of Stillwater v. Minnesota Municipal Comm'n, 300 Minn. 211, 217-18, 219 N.W.2d 82, 86-87 (1974); see also Dokmo v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 11, 459 N.W.2d 671, 674 (Minn. 1990) (explaining that constitutional principle of separation of powers requires the judiciary to refrain from de novo review of quasi-judicial acts).

[3] Finally, although we need not reach this issue because of our previous holding, we conclude that no material fact issue prohibits Koch's summary judgment motion under the applicable statute of limitations. Appellant's October 20, 1997, rebuttal to the department specifically referenced Koch's personnel records violation. Because appellant's November 1998 filing referencing this claim occurred at least more than one year after the discovery of the violation, appellant's claim is barred by the statute of limitations. See Minn. Stat. § 181.965, subd. 2 (1996) (civil action "must be commenced within one year of the actual or constructive discovery of the alleged violation").