Albertson's, Inc. v. City of Sheridan

Decision Date17 October 2001
Docket NumberNo. 00-258.,00-258.
Citation2001 WY 98,33 P.3d 161
PartiesALBERTSON'S, INC., a Delaware corporation, licensed to do business in Wyoming; and Jackson Electric, Inc., a Wyoming corporation, Appellants (Petitioners), v. The CITY OF SHERIDAN, Wyoming; and the City Council of the City of Sheridan, Wyoming, Appellees (Respondents).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Anthony T. Wendtland of Davis & Cannon, Sheridan, WY, Representing Appellant Albertson's, Inc.

Virgil G. Kinnaird, Sheridan, WY, Representing Appellant Jackson Electric, Inc.

Stephen K. Gregersen, City of Sheridan, Sheridan, WY; Theodore E. Lauer, Director of the Prosecution Assistance Program; and Joseph J. Simola and Craig Trummel, Student Interns, Representing Appellees.

Before LEHMAN, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and VOIGT, JJ.

KITE, Justice.

[¶ 1] Jackson Electric, Inc. assigned its liquor license to Albertson's, Inc. pending transfer approval by the licensing authority, the City Council of the City of Sheridan. Albertson's made application for the transfer, a public hearing was held, and the City Council voted to deny the request. Albertson's and Jackson Electric appealed to the district court and demanded a trial de novo pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 12-4-104 (LEXIS 1999).1 The City of Sheridan filed a motion to dismiss asserting there is no legal right to appeal from the denial of a request to transfer a liquor license. The district court dismissed the appeal, and we affirm.

ISSUES

[¶ 2] Albertson's presents the following issue:

Whether Albertson's, Inc. and Jackson Electric, Inc. can be denied judicial review of the City of Sheridan's December 6, 1999 denial of their Application to transfer an existing retail liquor license?

Jackson Electric phrases the issue:

Did the District Court err by granting the motion of Appellee City of Sheridan, Wyoming and City Council of the City of Sheridan, Wyoming to dismiss Appellant Albertson's, Inc. and Appellant Jackson Electric, Inc.['s] appeal of City of Sheridan's denial of application to transfer liquor license?

The City of Sheridan and the City Council responsively submit two questions for review:

I. Does the holder of a liquor license or the prospective transferee of that license have a right to appeal to the district court from the City Council's denial of an application to transfer the license?
II. Did the Sheridan City Council's denial of the transfer of the liquor license constitute a taking of the licensee's property without due process of law?
FACTS

[¶ 3] In January of 1999, Jackson Electric assigned to Albertson's its rights to retail liquor license no. 11 issued by the City of Sheridan. The assignment was made subject to approval of the City of Sheridan and all provisions and conditions of the Wyoming statutes relating to retail liquor licenses. It is uncontested that Jackson Electric held a valid City of Sheridan liquor license during 1999, which was renewed in November of 1999.

[¶ 4] On or about November 2, 1999, Albertson's submitted a "License and/or Permit Application" to the City Clerk-Treasurer's office for the transfer of both the location and the ownership of the Jackson Electric liquor license. A "Notice of Application for Transfer of Location and Ownership of a Regular Retail Liquor License" setting the matter for hearing on December 6, 1999, was published by the City Clerk-Treasurer.

[¶ 5] At the hearing, counsel for both Albertson's and Jackson Electric were permitted to make comments and answer questions. Comments were also taken from members of the public, including Sheridan business owners and other liquor dealers. Subsequently, upon motion and vote, the City Council denied the requested transfer. The proceedings were memorialized in the minutes of the City Council meeting as follows:

A public hearing on transfer of ownership and location of a retail liquor license from Jackson Electric dba XL, 661 Broadway to Albertson's, Inc. dba Albertson's # 832, 1865 Coffeen Avenue was opened at 7:10 P.M. After comments by proponents and opponents the public hearing was closed at 8:37 P.M.
Councilor Tyra moved, seconded by Webster, to table the approval of the transfer. Council defeated the motion; voice vote, Councilors Tyra and Webster affirming.
Councilor Blank moved, seconded by Severs, approval of the transfer of ownership and location of a retail liquor license from Jackson Electric dba XL, 661 Broadway to Albertson's, Inc. dba Albertson's # 832, 1865 Coffeen Avenue. Council disapproved the motion; roll call vote, aye 1, nay 5, Councilor Blank affirming.

[¶ 6] Pursuant to W.R.A.P. 1.04 and § 12-4-104, Albertson's and Jackson Electric filed a joint "Notice of Appeal of Denial of Application to Transfer Renewal Liquor License and Demand for Trial De Novo" with the district court. Thereafter, the parties entered into a stipulation to certify the key issue to this court and framed it in the following manner:

If a City denies a request pursuant to W.S. 12-4-104 (1999) to transfer an existing and recently renewed liquor license from an entity holding it to another entity, does W.S. 12-4-104(e) (1999) provide or preclude the entity seeking transfer of the license or the entity seeking to transfer the license an appeal of the denial and obtain a trial de novo in District Court?

The district court certified the question to the Wyoming Supreme Court, but this court declined to answer the question. The City of Sheridan then filed a motion to dismiss in district court asserting that Wyoming law provided no right to appeal from the City Council's denial of the requested liquor license transfer. The district court issued a decision letter and order dismissing the appeal, and Albertson's and Jackson Electric jointly appealed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶ 7] The issue to be addressed is whether the district court properly ruled that Wyoming statutes do not provide a right to appeal from the denial of a transfer request. "The question is one of statutory interpretation. Statutory interpretation is a question of law; therefore, our standard of review is de novo." Anderson Highway Signs and Supply, Inc. v. Close, 6 P.3d 123, 124 (Wyo.2000). As we have noted: "In interpreting statutes, we primarily determine the legislature's intent. If the language is sufficiently clear, we do not resort to rules of construction. We apply our general rule that we look to the ordinary and obvious meaning of a statute when the language is unambiguous." Kirbens v. Wyoming State Board of Medicine, 992 P.2d 1056, 1060 (Wyo.1999) (citations omitted). We construe together all parts of the statutes in pari materia, and, in ascertaining the meaning of a given law, we consider and construe in harmony all statutes relating to the same subject or having the same general purpose. Thunderbasin Land, Livestock & Investment Co. v. County of Laramie County, 5 P.3d 774, 779 (Wyo.2000).

When the language is not clear or is ambiguous, the court must look to the mischief the statute was intended to cure, the historical setting surrounding its enactment, the public policy of the state, the conclusions of law, and other prior and contemporaneous facts and circumstances, making use of the accepted rules of construction to ascertain a legislative intent that is reasonable and consistent.

State ex rel. Motor Vehicle Division v. Holtz, 674 P.2d 732, 736 (Wyo.1983). When the legislature adopts a statute, we presume it does so with full knowledge of the existing state of the law with reference to the statute's subject matter. Thunderbasin Land, Livestock & Investment Co., 5 P.3d at 780.

All statutes are presumed to be enacted by the legislature with full knowledge of the existing state of law with reference thereto and statutes are therefore to be construed in harmony with the existing law, and as a part of an overall and uniform system of jurisprudence, and their meaning and effect is to be determined in connection, not only with the common law and the constitution, but also with reference to the decisions of the courts.

Voss v. Ralston, 550 P.2d 481, 486 (Wyo.1976); see also Fosler v. Collins, 13 P.3d 686, 689 (Wyo.2000).

DISCUSSION

[¶ 8] "The right to judicial review of an administrative decision is entirely statutory. Said another way, judicial review is not available unless made so by statute." Industrial Siting Council of State of Wyoming v. Chicago and North Western Transportation Company, 660 P.2d 776, 778 (Wyo.1983). Therefore, we must determine whether judicial review from a city's denial of a liquor license transfer application is made available by statute. "We have adopted the view that when we are analyzing the availability of judicial review of administrative decisions the interests of Wyoming are best served by a policy which leads to reviewability in most instances." Pisano v. Shillinger, 835 P.2d 1136, 1138-39 (Wyo.1992). In harmony with the "presumption of reviewability" is the concept that the right to review is not precluded unless legislative intent to preclude judicial review is clear and convincing. 835 P.2d at 1139. As explained by the United States Supreme Court:

"Whether and to what extent a particular statute precludes judicial review is determined not only from its express language, but also from the structure of the statutory scheme, its objectives, its legislative history, and the nature of the administrative action involved." [Block v. Community Nutrition Institute,] 467 U.S. [340,] 345, 104 S.Ct. [2450,] 2453[, 81 L.Ed.2d 270 (1984)]. See also Bowen v. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, 476 U.S. 667, 106 S.Ct. 2133, 90 L.Ed.2d 623 (1986).

Id. On this authority, we will evaluate the applicable statutes to determine whether they preclude judicial review of a city council's denial of a liquor license transfer request.

A. Express Language of "Local Licenses" Provisions of Title 12, Chapter 4

[¶ 9] Section 12-4-104 is entitled "Publication of notice; grant or denial; renewal preference; copy of application...

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