Crowley v. Spearfish Independent School Dist., No. 40-2, 16403

Citation445 N.W.2d 308,55 Ed.LawRep. 1116
Decision Date09 August 1989
Docket NumberNo. 16403,16403
Parties55 Ed. Law Rep. 1116 Arthur E. CROWLEY, Sr., and Helen V. Crowley, Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. SPEARFISH INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, NUMBER 40-2 and its School Board Members Carleen Schlup, Richard Sleep, Larry Marshall, Ron Niesent and Richard Hovey, Defendants and Appellees.
CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota

Reed C. Richards, Deadwood, for plaintiffs and appellants.

Gary R. Richards, Spearfish, for defendants and appellees.

HENDERSON, Justice.

CASE SUMMARY

We hold that the Circuit Court did not err in dismissing a writ of mandamus. To obtain mandamus, appellants must first invalidate a quiet title action and defeat a right of reverter. Further, appellants now seek to establish legal rights through mandamus, which they cannot do. Appellants do not have standing to challenge a quiet title action. Standing is res judicata, decided in 1987, and the same parties are before us. The school board cannot be mandated to sell property or pass any resolution affecting the property in question as (1) it does not own the property; (2) it cannot be compelled to perform acts which pertain to discretionary power; and, (3) it can accomplish no act to defeat Trezona's right of reverter. We affirm the trial court, also, in awarding $2,724.27 in sanctions to appellees and against appellants because of abuse of the court system, plus reasonable attorneys fees per SDCL 15-6-11(d).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY/ISSUES

Petitioners/Appellants Arthur E. Crowley, Sr., and Helen V. Crowley (Crowleys) appeal dismissal of their petition for a writ of mandamus to force the Spearfish Independent School District, No. 40-2, and its school board members, Carleen Schlup, Richard Sleep, Larry Marshall, Ron Niesent, and Richard Hovey (hereafter called Board), to dispose of a one-acre tract, formerly used for school purposes, according to procedures set out in SDCL ch. 13-21. Crowleys allege circuit court error in three regards:

(1) The Board failed to follow statutory procedures of SDCL ch. 13-21;

(2) No impediments exist to prevent Board's compliance with a writ of mandamus; and,

(3) Application of Rule 11 sanctions against Crowleys, by which they were ordered to pay some $2,700 in attorney's fees was inappropriate.

Board maintains that:

(1) Crowleys are arguing facts not before this Court, as this appellate record does not contain information from earlier cases regarding this matter;

(2) The school district no longer owns the property in question;

(3) The requested writ of mandamus would require Board to perform a discretionary act, which such writ cannot compel; and,

(4) Institution of this action was not well grounded in fact or law, justifying sanctions.

We observe that there was no testimony submitted to the trial court. Rather, the parties stipulated that the court could render its decision based upon pleadings and motions in this case together with files and records in the prior cases. The only facts available to us in the settled record are those contained in the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, and we cannot go beyond them. Pearson v. Adams, 279 N.W.2d 674, 676 (S.D.1979). 1 There is no support in the record for the dissent's assertion that "Trezona never even attempted to obtain service by publication of the summons and complaint on unknown defendants."

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are set out, essentially, in Crowley v. Trezona, 408 N.W.2d 332 (S.D.1987). Mary Trezona deeded an acre of land to the school district's predecessor in interest. The deed provided, among other things, that "if said grantees shall remove the school house to be erected or shall abandon said land for school purposes the same shall revert to the grantor or or (sic) her heirs and assigns." Id. at 332. The property was used for school purposes until 1972, but was abandoned after a school reorganization.

Johnny Trezona (Trezona), the heir of Mary Trezona, acquired the land surrounding the school acre, and, in 1965, deeded the property to Crowleys, except for the school acre. In 1982, Trezona brought a quiet-title action against the school district, the Township of St. Onge, and Lawrence County. Trezona did not serve notice of this action on Crowleys and notice was apparently improperly served on the school district. His action was unopposed by the named defendants, and a default judgment was granted.

In 1984, Crowleys brought an action against Trezona whereby they sought to have the default judgment declared void. This action culminated in the aforementioned decision of this Court, wherein we unanimously held that Crowleys had no standing to challenge the default judgment We agree with Trezona and hold Crowleys lack standing in this action. Both parties agree that the one-acre plot was excluded in the deed conveying the surrounding property from Trezona to Crowleys. Crowleys, however, attempt to establish standing by claiming an interest in the land under SDCL 13-21-6 which states in pertinent part:

If the property sold be a school site taken from a farm or tract of land, the owner of said farm or tract shall have the right to purchase said site at the appraised value or at the highest bid if the same shall exceed the appraisement....

While Crowleys might arguably have had standing to attack the default judgment if they have a "protectible interest," (note omitted) we hold that they have no such projectable interest arising from SDCL 13-21-6. Crowleys' right to purchase could not vest until the property was offered for sale by School District, therefore they can claim no interest at this time. The one-acre plot at the center of this litigation was not sold and Crowleys do not contend otherwise.

408 N.W.2d at 333-34. Interestingly, the school district was named as a defendant in Crowley I. In Crowley I, this Court devoted a considerable part of its opinion to a determination that principles of res judicata did not apply to Crowleys in that action, as they were not parties to the original quiet title action. This reasoning does not apply to the present case, as Crowleys and school district were parties in Crowley I. 2

DECISION
I. Board's Alleged Failure to Follow Statutory Procedures of SDCL ch. 13-21.

Crowleys first argue that Board's failing to declare the school site surplus or abandoned, and to then proceed to put the property up for sale, under SDCL ch. 13-21 (amended by 1988 S.D.Sess.L. ch. 64 (S.B. 18)--see SDCL ch. 6-13), is amenable to mandamus proceedings. This Court, in Crowley I, 408 N.W.2d 332 (S.D.1987), held that Crowleys lacked standing to challenge Trezona's default judgment because the property was never sold and they, therefore, had no projectable interest under SDCL 13-21-6. 3 Given our holding in Crowley I, Crowleys' current appeal depends on the nature of the procedures on their new attempt to achieve standing through reliance on SDCL 13-21-1, repealed, 1988 Sess.L. ch. 64, Sec. 61, reenacted in ch. 64, Sec. 1 (see SDCL 6-13-1) which provided, in pertinent part:

Whenever any school district in this state shall have property consisting of land, structures, supplies, equipment, or other property which shall be determined by resolution of the school board to be no longer necessary, useful, or suitable for school purposes, such school board may, by resolution, order the sale, trade-in, destruction or other disposal of said property. (Emphasis supplied.)

SDCL 13-21-2, repealed by 1988 Sess.L. ch. 64, Sec. 62, reenacted by ch. 64, Sec. 2 (see SDCL 6-13-2), directed school boards "[u]pon such resolution being made," to have such property appraised, with no appraisal required for "[e]quipment or supplies which are to be traded in for other equipment or supplies and property which is deemed no longer useful and is to be destroyed by resolution of the school board need not have its value appraised as herein provided." Under SDCL 13-21-2, it can be assumed, this school site would have to be appraised, if the school district still owned it. SDCL 13-21-3, -4, and -5 dealt with the process of selling properties. SDCL 13-21-3, -4, and -5 were repealed by 1988 S.D.Sess.L. ch. 64, Secs. 63, 64, and 65, respectively, and are now codified as SDCL 6-13-4, -5, and -6.

Under the above scheme, Crowleys argue that Board either had no discretion and was required by statute to pass a resolution setting a course toward sale, or abused its discretion in failing to do so. In either event, they believe mandamus is now appropriate. We disagree.

The answer appears to lie in South Dakota Trucking Ass'n, Inc. v. South Dakota Department of Transportation, 305 N.W.2d 682 (S.D.1981), which contains extensive discussion of the mandamus remedy:

Generally, for a party to be granted a writ of mandamus ' "... he must have a clear legal right to have a service performed by the party to whom he seeks to have the writ directed." ' (Citations omitted.) If the service or action which one seeks to compel is discretionary the proper exercise of such discretion will not be interfered with. This is not to say that there are no checks on such discretion.

' "... The discretion must be exercised under the established rules of law, and it may be said to be abused within the foregoing rule where the action complained of has been arbitrary or capricious, or based on personal, selfish, or fraudulent motives, or on false information, or on a total lack of authority to act, or where it amounts to an evasion of a positive duty ... or where the exercise of the discretion is in a manner entirely futile and known by the officer to be so and there are other methods which if adopted would be effective." '

State v. Richards, 61 S.D. 28, 38-39, 245 N.W. 901, 905 (1932) (citations omitted). Moreover an erroneous view of the law is sufficient to constitute an abuse of discretion. Richards, supra.

We must therefore determine whether the issuance of these permits is a discretionary...

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