Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 5

Summary of Decision January 10, 2012

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name: Hirshberg v. Coon; Menolascino v. Coon

Citation:  2012 WY 5

Docket Number: S-11-0113 & S-11-0115, S-11-0114 & S-11-0116

Appeals from the District Court of Teton County, The Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge

Representing Appellants (Proposed Intervenors), William Hirshberg and Dr. Mark Menolascino: Stuart R. Day, Keith J. Dodson, and Brian J. Marvel, Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, P.C., Casper, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Petitioner), Debra Davis: Elizabeth Greenwood and Inga L. Parsons, Attorneys at Law, Pinedale, Wyoming.

Representing Appellees (Petitioners), David Coon, Gail Jensen, Russell Magarity, and Susan Magarity: Peter F. Moyer, Esq., Jackson, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: January 10, 2012

Facts:  The owners of four (4) lots of real property filed a “Parcel Boundary Adjustment Application” with the County Planning Board, proposing to develop a single family residence on each parcel.  The Planning Board approved the application on the condition that the property would be divided into three parcels, not four.  The County Commission affirmed the Planning Board’s decision.

Appellees sought judicial review of the Commission’s decision.  Later that year and early in the next, Appellants purchased their respective properties.  Appellants were aware of the pending judicial review, but neither sought to intervene in the judicial review proceedings.  Ultimately, the reviewing district court reversed the decision of the Commission, ruling that the four lots had merged into one. 

The parties to the original administrative proceedings, and the judicial review thereof, declined to appeal this ruling. Appellants, however, filed a notice of appeal with respect to the district court’s decision.  They contemporaneously filed a motion to intervene in the district court proceedings for the sole purpose of pursuing the appeal therefrom.  The district court denied their motion to intervene, and Appellants appealed from this decision as well.  All four appeals were consolidated before this Court. 

Issues:  Appellants presented the following issues, 1) Whether the District Court Erred When It Denied Appellant’s Motion to Intervene; 2) Whether A Non-Party May Appeal From a Judgment, i.e., The District Court’s Order Reversing and Remanding Decision of the Board of County Commissioners of Teton County, Wyoming; 3) Whether a Non-Party May Intervene, Post-Judgment, for the Purpose of Appeal; 4) Whether the Board of County Commissioners for Teton County’s Decision Was Supported By Substantial Evidence and in Accordance with Law; 5) Whether the District Court’s Order Reversing and Remanding Decision of the Board of County Commissioners of Teton County, Wyoming Was Not Supported by Substantial Evidence, Was Contrary to Law, or Was Arbitrary and Capricious; 6) Whether The District Court Failed to Apply the Appropriate Standard of Review; 7) Whether the District Court Erred in Applying the Merger Doctrine; 8) Whether the District Court Erred in Holding the Subject Parcels of Real Property Merged into One Parcel of Real Property; and 9) Whether an Exception to the Merger Doctrine Applies to the Subject Parcels of Real Property.  Appellees generally relied upon the same issues but addressed only the first three, given their position that those issues are dispositive of the outcome of this case.

Holdings:  The Court affirmed Appeal Nos. S-11-0115 and S-11-0116 and dismissed Appeal Nos. S-11-0113 and S-11-0114. 

Due to its potentially dispositive nature, the Court initially considered whether the district court appropriately denied Appellants’ motion to intervene in the district court’s judicial review of the Commission’s agency action. The Court found that the district court appropriately based its holding on a consideration that the request to intervene occurred only after the final order had been entered and only after Appellants learned that the Commission was not intending to appeal the court’s final order.  The district court’s Order Denying Motion to Intervene was affirmed.

The Court further held that pursuant to Wyoming Rule of Appellate Procedure 2.07, an appeal is limited to a “party,” and accordingly, Appellants had no “right,” or ability, as nonparties, to appeal the final order from the district court. The Court dismissed the appeals of the Order Reversing and Remanding Decision of the Board of County Commissioners for lack of standing. 

Having so concluded, the Court did not address the underlying substantive merits of those appeals.

District Judge Waldrip delivered the opinion for the court.

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