Deffenbaugh Industries, Inc. v. Potts, WD

Decision Date26 June 1990
Docket NumberNo. WD,WD
Citation802 S.W.2d 520
PartiesDEFFENBAUGH INDUSTRIES, INC., Appellant, v. Barbara J. POTTS, et al., Respondent. Joe & Virginia Stevinson, et al., Intervenor-Respondent. 42099.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

James W. Shaffer, Richard D. Rhyne, Charles H. Stitt, Kansas City, for appellant.

Joe F. Willerth and William B. Moore, Independence, for Barbara Potts, et al.

Sherwin L. Epstein and Mark R. Warnick, Kansas City, for Joe & Virginia Stevinson.

Before ULRICH, P.J., and SHANGLER and TURNAGE, JJ.

SHANGLER, Judge.

This opinion reviews a final decision of the City Council of Independence to deny the application of Deffenbaugh Industries for a special use permit to operate a sanitary landfill within its bounds. The decision was rendered after a hearing, and Deffenbaugh brought in the circuit court a petition for review of the adverse administrative decision. The petition in original form invoked the judicial review function of the circuit court under § 536.100 as for a party aggrieved by a decision in a contested case, sought redress from the agency action on grounds enumerated in § 536.140.2, and prayed for a reversal of the decision or for remand--adjudications open to the circuit court under § 536.140.5. That is to say, the Deffenbaugh pleadings engaged the judicial review remedy of Chapter 536, the Administrative Procedure and Review Act.

The judgment of the circuit court did not issue on the original petition, however, but on an amended pleading that compounded the petition for review with two separate counts for declaratory judgment. The relief sought by the combination of counts was not only the judicial review of the administrative decision to deny the application for the special use permit, but for a declaration that the sanitary landfill operated by Deffenbaugh was a permitted nonconforming use under the zoning ordinances of the city so that the provisions of the city zoning ordinance prohibiting the operation of the landfill without a special use permit were invalid and unenforceable, and for a declaration that the city was without power to deny a special use permit to Deffenbaugh, a licensee approved by the State of Missouri under §§ 260.200 et seq.

The City Council undertook formal response by an answer to the petition for review and to the counts for declaratory judgment, and by a counterclaim to enjoin the operation of the Deffenbaugh landfill--whose special use permit had by then expired--and for damages, and for a declaration that the decision of the City Council to deny the special use permit was lawful and upon proper evidence. 1

Intervention was then granted to the couples, Stevinson and Miller, owners of land contiguous to the landfill site, and they made formal answer to the amended petition. The pleading was a traverse of each of the three counts--the petition for review under § 536.100 and the counts for declaratory judgment. 2

Thereafter, Deffenbaugh made formal reply to the counterclaim of the City Council to enjoin the operation of the landfill and for damages.

The judgment entered by the circuit court undertook to adjudicate in turn the Deffenbaugh petition for review and for declaratory judgments, and the counterclaim of the city to enjoin the operation of the landfill and for declaratory judgment. The judgment determined that the decision of the City Council to deny the special use permit to Deffenbaugh was supported by substantial evidence and was otherwise lawful, and denied the Deffenbaugh counts for declaration of the invalidity of the municipal zoning ordinance. The judgment determined also that the continued operation of the landfill by Deffenbaugh without a special use permit was unlawful and was otherwise injurious to the enjoyment of the contiguous property by their owners, and sustained the counterclaim of the city for a permanent injunction.

We determine, as did the judicial review of the circuit court, that the decision of the City Council to deny Deffenbaugh the special use permit rests on substantial evidence and is otherwise lawful. We determine also, that in a statutory proceeding for judicial review of a final administrative decision, pleadings for declaratory judgment and injunction are anomalous--and a judgment entered upon them, coram non judice and void. Accordingly, the decision of the City Council is affirmed, and the pleadings for declaratory judgment and injunction are dismissed.

The circuit court, although a court of general jurisdiction, exercises special powers confided by special statutes when it undertakes judicial review of a final administrative decision in a contested case under §§ 536.100 to 536.140. It can take cognizance of only those matters invested, so that its power to adjudicate is to the extent of the grant of the statute. Randles v. Schaffner, 485 S.W.2d 1, 3 (Mo.1972). The special statute defines the right as well as the remedy, so that a grant of relief beyond the authority of the statute is only pretense and without effect. State ex rel. Kansas City v. Public Serv. Comm'n., 362 Mo. 786, 244 S.W.2d 110, 115 (1951); Gray v. Clements, 286 Mo. 100, 227 S.W. 111, 113 (1920). A judgment of a circuit court under §§ 536.100 to 536.140, therefore, is an adjudication of a court of limited jurisdiction. Green v. Woodard, 588 S.W.2d 522, 524[1, 2] (Mo.App.1979).

The right sections 536.100 to 536.140 secure is that invested by constitution: the judicial review of a quasi-judicial decision of an administrative agency in a contested case that affects a private right. Mo. Const. art. V, § 18 (1945, amended 1976); § 536.100; Gothard v. Spradling, 586 S.W.2d 443, 445[1, 2] (Mo.App.1979) (en banc). The remedy to redress that right is as provided by law, or if not, then by supreme court rule. Mo. Const. art V, § 18 (1945, amended 1976). In this case, the legislature gave remedy to the right of judicial review in a contested case by the enactment of §§ 536.100 to 536.140. Farmer's Bank of Antonia v. Kostman, 577 S.W.2d 915, 921[4-10] (Mo.App.1979). It also gave scope to the court of review, and the power of equity or for declaratory judgment were not given within that scope. § 536.140; Jacobs v. Leggett, 295 S.W.2d 825, 835 (Mo. banc 1956). That is to say, the enactment confers the authority to examine and correct the agency decision, but not to form a plenary judgment as by a court of general and original jurisdiction. § 536.140.5; State ex rel. State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts v. Elliott, 387 S.W.2d 489, 492[2, 3] (Mo. banc 1965); Phipps v. School Dist. of Kansas City, 645 S.W.2d 91, 94 (Mo.App.1982).

It is not only the construct of that enactment that withholds from the circuit court on judicial review the power of equity and for declaratory judgment. It is also precluded by the principle that equity will not act where an adequate remedy at law remains for redress. Deffenbaugh does not contend that the statutory remedy its petition invokes is not adequate to review its claim of aggrievement. Indeed, the procedures of §§ 536.100 to 536.140 were constituted to implement the mandate of our organic law that "[a]ll final decisions ... of any administrative ... body ... which are judicial or quasi-judicial and affect private rights, shall be subject to direct review by the courts as provided by law ..." [Mo. Const. art. V, § 22 (1945, as amended 1976) ]. Farmers Bank of Antonia v. Kostman, 577 S.W.2d at 921[4-10]. The prescribed procedure of a statutory remedy adequate for redress is exclusive and, while still available, precludes resort to equity. Ackerman v. City of Creve Coeur, 553 S.W.2d 490, 491 (Mo.App.1977).

The declaratory judgment is particularly inapt as a device for judicial review of administrative actions of zoning agencies--such as denial by the municipal planning commission of a special use permit. Its use for that function tends to unsettle the equipoise in the separation of powers section 18, article V of the Constitution so deftly accomplishes. See generally Shewmaker, Procedure Before, and Review of Decisions of, Missouri Administrative Agencies, 37 V.A.M.S. 145 (1953) (volume superseded 1988). That is because judicial review for that purpose under the special statutory procedures of chapter 536, as well as of zoning and planning chapters 64 and 89, is confined to the validity of decisions, and not of ordinances. Allen v. Coffel, 488 S.W.2d 671, 673 (Mo.App.1972). The legitimate reach of review by these procedures, therefore, extends to the quasi-judicial actions of the agency, and not to the exercise of its mingled legislative power. Salameh v. County of Franklin, 767 S.W.2d 66, 68 (Mo.App.1989). Reynolds v. City of Independence, 693 S.W.2d 129, 132[7, 8] (Mo.App.1985). 3 The pleading for declaratory judgment Deffenbaugh insinuates into the proceeding nevertheless seeks the judgment that, as applied to require of Deffenbaugh special use permit to operate the sanitary landfill, an ordinance enacted by the City Council was invalid. This pleading, if allowed in a judicial review of an administrative decision that affects private rights, however, would not only confound the legislative function of the City Council to enact an ordinance with its mingled power to render quasi-judicial actions under the ordinance, but would infringe the limits of the power of review under the special procedures for that purpose. 4 Allen v. Coffel, 488 S.W.2d at 673; Salameh v. County of Franklin, 767 S.W.2d at 68; Williams v. City of Kirkwood, 537 S.W.2d 571, 574[2-7] (Mo.App.1976); see n. 3.

What remained for the legitimate review of the circuit court was the administrative decision of the City Council to deny the application for a special use permit. Deffenbaugh invoked the procedures of §§ 536.100 to 536.140 for the judicial review of that agency decision in the contested case before the City Council. Those sections...

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