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Court rules on agency record appeals

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In two separate opinions, the Indiana Court of Appeals tackled the issue of timely and complete filing of an agency record.

In William B. Reedus v. Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development, No. 49A02-0808-CV-760, the issue is whether William Reedus' appeal of an order of the Indiana State Employees' Appeals Commission should have contained certain documents. He only attached uncertified copies of the Department of Workforce Development's dismissal letter, the administrative law judge's non-final order with findings and conclusions, the judge's final order, and the DWD's witness and exhibit list for the SEAC hearing. His petition for judicial review of agency action lacked the transcripts or exhibits from the hearing. The trial court dismissed his appeal.

In Indiana Family and Social Services Administration v. Alice V. Meyer, et al., No. 69A01-0807-CV-358, the issue is whether Alice Meyer's trust failed to timely file the agency record after Meyer's Medicaid benefits were denied. The trial court denied the Family and Social Service Agency's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction for failing to timely file the agency record. The trial court also corrected the administrative law judge's mathematical error in calculating the value of the reminder of interest of a farm.

In both appeals, the appellate court examined Indiana Code Section 4-21.5-5-13, which stipulates the means for judicial review of a final agency action and ruled that the phrase "cause for dismissal" means the General Assembly intended to empower, but not require a trial court to dismiss an appeal that doesn't follow statute requirements.

In the Meyer case, there was substantial procedural compliance by the trust and an obvious substantive error in the administrative law decision when it incorrectly determined the value of the remainder interest of a farm, wrote Judge Patricia Riley for the majority. In this case, the appellate court concluded I.C. Section 4-21.5-5-13 doesn't speak to subject matter jurisdiction, doesn't mandate automatic dismissal for procedural error, and must be read to confer the trial court discretion in some circumstances, wrote Judge Riley. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision. Judge Paul Mathias dissented, writing the timely and complete filing of the agency record is a condition precedent to the acquisition of jurisdiction to consider a petition for judicial review.

In Reedus, the appellate court ruled the trial court didn't abuse its discretion for dismissing Reedus' appeal. Under Administrative Orders and Procedures Act Section 5-13, a petitioner must timely file the documents on which the agency relied in issuing the orders. Reedus argued the transcripts and exhibits he didn't submit weren't necessary for review of the decision, but it's clear from the administrative law judge's order that he relied on the testimony to make his findings. Therefore, Reedus had to file the evidence as required by the AOPA and his petition was inadequate, wrote Judge Riley. In this case, Judge Mathias concurred in result, giving similar reasoning as he did in his dissent in Meyer.

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