95 So.2d 912 (Fla. 1957), De Groot v. Sheffield

Citation:95 So.2d 912
Opinion Judge:Author: Thornal
Party Name:Peter DE GROOT, Appellant, v. L. S. SHEFFIELD et al., Appellees.
Attorney:Coffee & Coffee, Jacksonville, for appellant.
Case Date:May 29, 1957
Court:Supreme Court of Florida

Page 912

95 So.2d 912 (Fla. 1957)

Peter DE GROOT, Appellant,

v.

L. S. SHEFFIELD et al., Appellees.

Supreme Court of Florida, En Banc.

May 29, 1957

As Amended on Denial of Rehearing June 26, 1957.

Page 913

Coffee & Coffee, Jacksonville, for appellant.

Elliott Adams and McCarthy, Lane & Adams, Jacksonville, for appellees.

THORNAL, Justice.

Appellant DeGroot, who was relator below, seeks reversal of an order of the Circuit Judge dismissing his petition for a writ of mandamus which was sought to compel the appellees to reinstate the relator as an employee of the Duval County School Board.

The determining question is whether the action of the County Civil Service Board, which supervises the county merit system, can be reviewed and collaterally assaulted as a defense to a mandamus proceeding.

Relator Peter DeGroot had been an employee of the Duval County School Board for about eighteen years prior to February 9, 1955. For the last ten years he held the position of 'Supervisor of Construction.' Since 1943 he was in the classified service under the Duval County Civil Service Act. See Chapter 22263, Laws of Florida, Acts of 1943. On August 4, 1954, the School Board, with the approval of the Civil Service Board, created the position of 'Supervising Architect' and filled the job by appointment of a registered architect named Broadfoot. On February 9, 1955, the School Board adopted a resolution delineating the functions of the Supervising Architect, many of which had theretofore been performed by DeGroot, as Supervisor of Construction. By the same resolution the School Board proposed that the position of Supervisor of Construction be abolished.

Section 7, Chapter 22263, Laws of Florida, Acts of 1943, provides in part as follows:

'* * * No position in the classified [service] shall be abolished without the approval of the Civil Service Board. Positions may be abolished only in good faith.'

Pursuant to this requirement, the School Board resolution was submitted to the County Civil Service Board which, after an extended hearing, declined to approve the resolution defining the duties of the Architect and abolishing the position of Supervisor of Construction.

Despite the action of the Civil Service Board, the School Board proceeded to dismiss DeGroot from his employment. He thereupon instituted this action in mandamus to compel reinstatement. In the mandamus proceeding the parties stipulated that the transcript of the testimony offered

Page 914

before the Civil Service Board could be filed in evidence. A motion to quash the alternative writ was likewise filed. Upon consideration of the record thereby presented, the trial judge concluded that regardless of the judgment of the Civil Service Board, the action of the School Board in resolving to abolish the position of Supervisor of Construction was taken in good faith and that therefore DeGroot was subject to dismissal. He thereupon granted the respondents-appellees' motion to dismiss the petition in mandamus and entered final judgment in their favor. Reversal of this judgment is here sought.

It is contended by the appellant-relator that the decision of the Civil Service Board was not subject to collateral attack by the respondents in the mandamus proceeding. He further contends that if review of that order were desired by the respondents, they should have proceeded by way of certiorari and that in all events the trial judge could not re-weigh the evidence presented to the Civil Service Board.

It is the position of the appellees that the order of the Civil Service Board should not be enforced in the absence of supporting substantial evidence and that the decision of the Board could be reviewed by the Circuit Judge regardless of the nature of the proceeding to determine whether there was substantial evidence in support thereof.

We are here squarely confronted with the problem of determining the appropriate procedure for obtaining review of an order of an administrative agency. Although administrative agencies have been known to the law for many years, it has only been within fairly recent years that a substantial body of jurisprudence has developed with reference to so-called 'administrative law.' Because of the expansion of the number of boards, commissions, bureaus and officials having authority to make orders or determinations which directly affect both public and private rights, there has been an increasing number of cases involving the extent of the authority of these agencies as well as the validity or correctness of their conclusions in particular instances. We are told that in our state government there are over one hundred boards, bureaus and officials engaged in administrative activities affecting the rights and property of individuals as well as the public. See French's Research in Florida Law, p. 54; 1 Florida Law and Practice, Administrative Law, Sec. 30. In addition there are innumerable county and city boards and agencies such as Civil Service Boards and other boards that perform similar functions.

Although over the years many cases in one form or another have come to this court involving the correctness of orders of administrative agencies, we are unaware of any that has squarely and directly raised the problems presented by the instant appeal. Despite the local nature of the particular problem at hand, it appears to us that it is appropriate to undertake to reconcil many of our previous apparently divergent opinions in an offort to establish for the future some orderly procedure in disposing of problems of this nature. We do this also in fairness to the trial judge who undoubtedly was confronted with some of these conflicting viewpoints but who did not have available the opportunity for detailed research that accompanies appellate review. Nonetheless, as pointed out by Kenneth Culp Davis in 44 Illinois Law Review p. 565, 'No branch of administrative law is more seriously in need of reform than the law concerning methods of judicial review.' This author then observes, 'No other branch is so easy to reform.' The reviewability of an administrative order depends on whether the function of the agency involved is judicial or quasi-judicial in which its orders are reviewable or on the contrary whether the function of the agency is executive in which event its decisions are not reviewable by the courts except on the sole ground of lack of jurisdiction. In the latter event...

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