Burke v. Lead-Deadwood School Dist. No. 40-1, LEAD-DEADWOOD

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtFOSHEIM; FOSHEIM
Citation347 N.W.2d 343
Parties17 Ed. Law Rep. 236 William G. BURKE, Appellant, v.SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 40-1, Appellee. . Considered on Briefs
Decision Date18 January 1984
Docket NumberNo. 14091,LEAD-DEADWOOD

Page 343

347 N.W.2d 343
17 Ed. Law Rep. 236
William G. BURKE, Appellant,
v.
LEAD-DEADWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 40-1, Appellee.
No. 14091.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
Considered on Briefs Jan. 18, 1984.
Opinion Filed April 18, 1984.

Page 344

Burke was first employed by the Deadwood School District for the 1960-61 school year as an elementary classroom teacher. He maintained that position until December 1966, when he was employed as elementary principal. From that time, through the reorganization of the Deadwood School System into the Lead-Deadwood Independent School District No. 40-1 (District), Burke was an elementary principal. In 1978, Burke was employed as Director of Special Services. He held that position until 1982.

On March 8, 1982, Burke received a letter from the Superintendent of Schools, advising him that, due to economic necessity, his position of Director of Special Services was eliminated and he would be terminated at the end of his present contract. Burke requested a hearing which was held on April 14, 1982. At the conclusion of the hearing, Burke was advised that the School Board (Board) would stand by their prior decision. Appeal was taken to the Circuit Court, Eighth Judicial Circuit, and trial de novo was held. Judgment was rendered affirming the Board's decision, thus triggering this appeal. We must first vault a procedural hurdle before addressing the substantive aspect of this case.

Appellant submits that the Board acted illegally in failing to follow its Staff Reduction Policy with regard to his termination. Appellee urges that this issue has not been preserved for appeal because of a failure to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the circuit court, citing Jennings v. Jennings, 309 N.W.2d 809 (S.D.1981), as authority.

Jennings does indeed state that "it is necessary to request findings of fact and conclusions of law and to object to findings of fact and conclusions of law as a prerequisite to challenging the decision on appeal." 309 N.W.2d at 812. However, it should be noted that neither proposed findings nor objections to findings were ever filed in Jennings, despite a court-ordered, ten-day extension in which to do so. The adverse party had no grounds, then, upon which to rest a complaint as to the sufficiency of the evidence. Further, Jennings relies, as precedent, on numerous cases which have stated the above proposition much less restrictively. "This court has repeatedly held that where the sufficiency of the evidence was not questioned before the trial court by motion for a new trial, request for findings or other appropriate procedure sufficiency of the evidence cannot be reviewed ...." In re Veith, 261 N.W.2d 424, 425 (S.D.1978); Builders Specialties Co. v. Swanson, 82 S.D. 663, 152 N.W.2d 550 (1967); Ove v. Hutcheson, 77 S.D. 78, 85 N.W.2d 675 (1957).

These decisions are based on an application of SDCL 15-26A-8, which provides: "Such ... matters ... as may have been timely presented to the trial court by motion for directed verdict, request for findings, or other apt motion, offer, or objection may be reviewed on appeal ...." Though an exception is taken for "[a]ny action or decision of the court in making or modifying findings of fact or conclusions of law ..." per SDCL 15-6-52(a), there is a requirement of "a request for a finding on an issue of fact as the basis for a finding of insufficiency of the evidence as to it." Builders Specialties, 152 N.W.2d at 551; Jennings.

The thrust of this statute is twofold. On the one hand, it will not allow a party, upon review, to profit from its own failure to act. On the other, it protects the trial court's right to rule correctly. By insisting that all matters must be timely presented to the trial court, the legislature has attempted to insure that trial judges are given adequate opportunity to avoid mistakes.

In the present case, findings of fact were not proposed per se. However, explicit written objections were raised to appellee's proposed findings. These objections contained the requisite specificity, pointing out particular defects or errors relied upon in objecting and advocated positive legal viewpoints. These were, in essence, proposed findings. Thus, the intent of the statute is preserved. The trial court had an opportunity to review the evidence, to weigh it, and to correct any errors and remove possible

Page 345

doubts; i.e., it had an opportunity to rule correctly.

To the extent the holding in Jennings would refuse review in a situation such as this, where objections take the form of proposed findings, that holding is too narrow. To the extent that it would require filing findings and objections, it is, perhaps, too broad. We therefore confine Jennings to its facts, wherein the record stood void of both proposed findings and objections to findings, thereby leaving nothing with which to challenge the evidence. We further modify the proposition stated therein to conform more to the previous line of cases. We reassert that "[i]f a party does not present proposed findings of...

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16 practice notes
  • Mash v. Cutler, Nos. 17604
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • June 24, 1992
    ...not be questioned on appeal. Jager v. Ramona Bd. of Educ., 444 N.W.2d 21, 26 (S.D.1989); Burke v. Lead-Deadwood School Dist. No. 40-1, 347 N.W.2d 343, 344-45 (S.D.1984). See also Sobolik v. Stone, 420 N.W.2d 764, 767 (S.D.1988); McCannon v. Lusk-Mitchell Newspapers, 67 S.D. 291, 292 N.W. 82......
  • Saint-Pierre v. Saint-Pierre, SAINT-PIERR
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • November 13, 1984
    ...usual case, therefore, defendant would be precluded from urging these matters on appeal. See Burke v. Lead-Deadwood Sch. Dist. # 40-1, 347 N.W.2d 343 (S.D.1984). In view of the fact, however, that we are reversing the judgment in part so that the trial court may take into account the $12,00......
  • Strain v. Rapid City School Bd. for Rapid City Area School Dist., No. 16405
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • October 11, 1989
    ...overlooks the "de novo" factual inquiry that the circuit court has authority to conduct. Burke v. Lead-Deadwood Sch. Dist. No. 40-1, 347 N.W.2d 343 (S.D.1984). The trial de novo provided for in SDCL 13-46-6 permits the circuit court to make an independent inquiry into the facts which form t......
  • Bollinger v. Eldredge, No. 18344
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • February 15, 1994
    ...(quoting GMS, Inc. v. Deadwood Social Club, Inc., 333 N.W.2d 442, 443 (S.D.1983)); accord Burke v. Lead-Deadwood Sch. Dist. No. 40-1, 347 N.W.2d 343 (S.D.1984). " '[T]he facts are considered conclusive and may not be challenged.' " Shoop at 724 (quoting Massey Ferguson Credit Corp. v. Bice,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • Mash v. Cutler, Nos. 17604
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • June 24, 1992
    ...not be questioned on appeal. Jager v. Ramona Bd. of Educ., 444 N.W.2d 21, 26 (S.D.1989); Burke v. Lead-Deadwood School Dist. No. 40-1, 347 N.W.2d 343, 344-45 (S.D.1984). See also Sobolik v. Stone, 420 N.W.2d 764, 767 (S.D.1988); McCannon v. Lusk-Mitchell Newspapers, 67 S.D. 291, 292 N.W. 82......
  • Saint-Pierre v. Saint-Pierre, SAINT-PIERR
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • November 13, 1984
    ...usual case, therefore, defendant would be precluded from urging these matters on appeal. See Burke v. Lead-Deadwood Sch. Dist. # 40-1, 347 N.W.2d 343 (S.D.1984). In view of the fact, however, that we are reversing the judgment in part so that the trial court may take into account the $12,00......
  • Strain v. Rapid City School Bd. for Rapid City Area School Dist., No. 16405
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • October 11, 1989
    ...overlooks the "de novo" factual inquiry that the circuit court has authority to conduct. Burke v. Lead-Deadwood Sch. Dist. No. 40-1, 347 N.W.2d 343 (S.D.1984). The trial de novo provided for in SDCL 13-46-6 permits the circuit court to make an independent inquiry into the facts which form t......
  • Bollinger v. Eldredge, No. 18344
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • February 15, 1994
    ...(quoting GMS, Inc. v. Deadwood Social Club, Inc., 333 N.W.2d 442, 443 (S.D.1983)); accord Burke v. Lead-Deadwood Sch. Dist. No. 40-1, 347 N.W.2d 343 (S.D.1984). " '[T]he facts are considered conclusive and may not be challenged.' " Shoop at 724 (quoting Massey Ferguson Credit Corp. v. Bice,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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