G.W. v. State, Department of Revenue, 090611 AKPFD, 3AN-10-9839 CI

Docket Nº:3AN-10-9839 CI
Opinion Judge:PHILIP R. VOLLAND, SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE
Party Name:G W, Appellant, v. STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE Appellee.
Case Date:September 06, 2011
Court:Superior Court of Alaska
 
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G W, Appellant,

v.

STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE Appellee.

No. 3AN-10-9839 CI

Superior Court of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage

September 6, 2011

DECISION ON APPEAL

PHILIP R. VOLLAND, SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE

I. INTRODUCTION

Mr. B H. W, an Alaska State Resident, died on October 29, 2008. He had been applying and receiving his Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) for years without being denied.1 On March 23, 2009, G W, Mr. W's widow, filed an application for a dividend on behalf of Mr. W. The Permanent Fund Dividend Division determined that Mr. W did not qualify to collect that year's dividend because he had passed away during the qualifying year and denied the application. Mrs. W appealed that decision through the Division's Informal Appeal Process and again through the Formal Process in front of the Alaska Office Of Administrative Hearings. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Friedman upheld the decision of the Division. Mrs. W has appealed that decision to this Court. For the reasons set forth below, the Department's dividend denial is upheld.

II. FACTS

B W established residency in 1997 according the dividend application records, and filed his first application for a PFD in 1999.2 Mr. W filed every year through 2008 and was never denied in that time.3 Mr. W died in October 2008. His widow, Mrs. W, filed an application on Mr. W's behalf, dated March 23, 2009. Mrs. W indicated that she was filing on Mr. W's behalf on the application below her signature.4

To be eligible to receive one permanent fund dividend, an individual must meet several requirements including, but not limited to, being "a state resident on the date of application, " and being "a state resident during the entire qualifying year."5 A state resident is "an individual who is physically present in the state with the intent to remain indefinitely."6 15 AAC 23.103(b) states that

[a]n individual who dies before the application period set by AS 43.23.011 is not eligible for a dividend. An application may not be made on behalf of an individual after that individual has died, unless the application was signed by the individual or the individual's authorized representative before the individual's death, or unless the individual died during the application period set by AS 43.23.011.

The Division denied Mr. W a 2009 dividend and argued that Mr. W was not a state resident under the statutes and code section above.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Alaska Supreme Court articulated, in Griswold v. City of Homer, four standards of review that are applied to administrative decisions.7 They are: "(1) the substantial evidence test for questions of fact; (2) the reasonable basis test for questions of law involving agency expertise; (3) the substitution of judgment test for questions of law where no expertise is involved; and (4) the reasonable and not arbitrary test for review of administrative regulations."8 The first, third, and fourth tests apply to this case.

Reasonable and Not Arbitrary Test

When the Court determines whether a regulation is valid, it applies the reasonable and not arbitrary test.9 The court shall

ascertain whether the regulation is consistent with and reasonably necessary to carry out the purposes of the statutory provisions conferring rule-making authority on the agency. This aspect of the review insures that the agency has not exceeded the power delegated by the legislature. Second, [the Court shall] determine whether the regulation is reasonable and not arbitrary. This latter inquiry is proper in the review of any legislative enactment.10

Substitution of Judgment or Independent Judgment Test

The Alaska Supreme Court in Harrod v. State, Dept. of Revenue, 11 explained that "[i]ssues of statutory interpretation ordinarily raise questions of law that do not involve agency expertise." In such cases courts "apply an independent judgment standard of review seeking to adopt the rule of law that is most persuasive in light of precedent, reason, and policy."12

Substantial Evidence Test

When reviewing an agency's factual determinations, the court applies the "substantial evidence" test. Substantial evidence, as defined in Bostic v. State, Dept. of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement Div., is

such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. The [agency's] decision need not be the only possible solution to the problem, for it is not the function of the court to reweigh the evidence or choose between competing inferences, but only to determine whether such evidence exists.13

IV. DISCUSSION

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