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Bayles v. North Dakota Department of Transportation

Supreme Court of North Dakota

December 22, 2015

Neil Christopher Bayles, Appellee
v.
North Dakota Department of Transportation, Appellant

Page 627

Editorial Note:

The opinion cannot be considered final until disposition of such petition for rehearing by the court or expiration of 14 days from filing date.

Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Bruce B. Haskell, Judge.

Douglas Bruce Anderson, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Attorney General, Bismarck, ND, for appellant.

Danny Lee Herbel, Bismarck, ND, for appellee.

Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers, Dale V. Sandstrom, Carol Ronning Kapsner, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Opinion of the Court by McEvers, Justice.

OPINION

Page 628

McEvers, Justice.

[¶1] The North Dakota Department of Transportation appeals from a district court judgment reversing the administrative hearing officer's decision suspending Neil Bayles' driving privilege for ninety-one days because the Department failed to timely file the hearing transcript within the twenty-day period under N.D.C.C. § 39-20-06. We reverse, concluding the district court erred as a matter of law by summarily reversing the hearing officer's decision based on statutory noncompliance and because Bayles failed to show prejudice caused by the claimed delay or demonstrate the Department systemically disregarded the requirements of the law. We remand with instructions for the district court to consider Bayles' appeal on the merits.

I

[¶2] On October 9, 2014, Bayles was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. He timely requested an administrative hearing. On November 10, 2014, an administrative hearing officer suspended Bayles' driving privileges for ninety-one days. On November 17, 2014, Bayles filed with the district court a notice of appeal, specifications of error, and certificate of service certifying he mailed the filings to the Department. On January 6, 2015, Bayles' counsel emailed the Department asking about the status of the administrative hearing transcript. The Department responded they did not receive Bayles' notice of appeal. On January 7, 2015, Bayles' counsel emailed the Department the documents filed in the district court. On January 21, 2015, the district court's calendar control clerk notified the parties by letter stating the district court had not received the record, and the case would be reviewed on February 17, 2015. On January 26, 2015, the Department filed the transcript with the district court. No notice of hearing was provided to the Department by Bayles. Bayles filed a motion titled " Request to Grant Appeal," requesting the district court to reverse the hearing officer's decision. In Bayles' reply to the Department's response to the motion, Bayles requested reversal as a sanction for the Department's " institutional noncompliance and systemic disregard of the law" evidenced by the Department's failure to timely file transcripts on four other unrelated matters. No affidavit or other evidence was offered to the district court in support of Bayles' request. Bayles did not request a hearing on his " Request to Grant Appeal."

[¶3] The Department responded to Bayles' request, arguing the Department complied with the calendar control clerk's request to file the administrative record by February 17, 2015. The Department further argued the twenty-day period to file a transcript under N.D.C.C. § 39-20-06 is not jurisdictional and a violation does not require automatic dismissal. The Department also claimed a legitimate dispute of fact existed as to when Bayles served his notice of appeal on the Department.

[¶4] The district court summarily reversed the hearing officer's decision, without reaching the merits and restored Bayles' driving privileges, on the basis that " the transcript of the testimony of Bayles' . . . administrative hearing was not filed with the district court within the time period specified by N.D.C.C. § 39-20-06." The Department appeals.

II

[¶5] This Court's review of an administrative agency decision to suspend a person's driving privileges is governed by the Administrative Agencies Practice Act, N.D.C.C. ch. 28-32. Berger v. ...


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