Employment Sec. Administration, Bd. of Appeals v. Smith, 77

Decision Date04 April 1978
Docket NumberNo. 77,77
Citation383 A.2d 1108,282 Md. 267
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Joel J. Rabin, Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore (Francis B. Burch, Atty. Gen. and Lois F. Lapidus, Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore, on brief), for appellant.

Daniel P. Sheridan and Thomas A. Rymer, Prince Frederick (Rymer & Sheridan, Prince Frederick, on brief), for appellee.



This is an action to review the termination of unemployment benefits.

In September 1975, the claimant, Carrie Smith, lost her job in the kitchen of a nursing home in the town of Prince Frederick, in Calvert County, Maryland. The claimant, a resident of Prince Frederick, filed a claim for unemployment insurance with the Employment Security Administration of the Department of Human Resources, and she began receiving benefits under the Unemployment Insurance Law, Maryland Code (1957, 1969 Repl.Vol., 1977 Cum. Supp.), Art. 95A, §§ 1-23. In March 1976, benefits to the claimant were suspended as a result of the decision by a claims examiner that the claimant was no longer eligible for benefits. The examiner determined that the claimant was no longer "available" for work as required by Art. 95A, § 4(c), of the Unemployment Insurance Law.

Claimant appealed the decision of the claims examiner, and an administrative hearing was held before a hearing officer of the Employment Security Administration. The claimant introduced a list of some 35 different businesses in the Prince Frederick area which she had personally contacted in hopes of securing employment. She also testified to other work-seeking activities. The hearing officer, in his findings of fact, stated:

"On April 27, 1976, the claimant gave the Claims Examiner a statement to the effect that she is primarily looking for work in the Prince Frederick area because she doesn't have any transportation. The claimant stated that she had called other areas by phone and only on one occasion had the landlady driven her to another area Huntingtown approximately ten miles north for her to look for work. The claimant contended that should (she) obtain . . . a job she would get transportation."

The claimant did not herself own a car, nor was public transportation available, but claimant testified that her landlady had agreed to provide her with transportation if necessary. The hearing officer upheld the decision of the claims examiner, stating:

"The evidence discloses that the claimant's work seeking activities in her local Prince Frederick area with phone calls to other areas and one trip to an adjacent area are insufficient to meet the requirements of the law."

The claimant petitioned for a review of the hearing officer's decision by the Board of Appeals of the Employment Security Administration. The Board, after reviewing the record, denied the petition.

The claimant then appealed to the Circuit Court for Calvert County for review of the Board's decision. The circuit court (Bowen, J.) reversed the decision of the Board, concluding that, although the facts found by the hearing examiner were correct, they did not support the conclusion that the claimant was not available for work. The Board took an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals. Prior to any proceeding in that court, the Board petitioned this Court for a writ of certiorari, which we granted.


Preliminarily, the claimant argues that the Board has no authority to seek review of the circuit court's decision.

It is established in Maryland that an administrative agency acting in a quasi-judicial capacity cannot take an appeal when one of its decisions is reversed by a circuit court, unless the authority to appeal to a higher court is provided by law. The justification for this view, as set forth in Zoning Appeals Board v. McKinney, 174 Md. 551, 560-562, 199 A. 540, 544-545 (1938), is rooted in the nature of an agency performing solely quasi-judicial functions:

"From these statutory provisions it is apparent that the Board is a type of those administrative agencies which necessarily play so large a part in the operation of government under modern conditions the function of which is to ascertain and determine ultimate facts upon which the legislative will is to operate. Such a function involves the exercise of discretion, and judgment, and is in its nature judicial. It grants or withholds highly valuable privileges accordingly as it from evidence finds the existence of facts which justify one course or the other. It has no executive duties, it formulates no policies, its function is merely to find facts, to apply to those facts rules of law prescribed by the Legislature, and to announce the result. It has no interest, personal or official, in the matters which come before it other than to decide them according to the law and the proved fact, and it is in no sense a party to such proceedings.

". . . (T)he Board has no more right to appeal from its own decisions to the Baltimore City Court, or, from the decisions of that court to the Court of Appeals, than a justice of the peace, or such an agency as the State Industrial Accident Commission, would have to appeal from the judgments of a court reversing their decisions."

See Board of Examiners of Landscape Architects v. McWilliams, 270 Md. 383, 311 A.2d 792 (1973); Subsequent Injury Fund v. Pack, 250 Md. 306, 242 A.2d 506 (1968); Liquor License Board v. Leone, 249 Md. 263, 239 A.2d 82 (1968); Maryland Pharmacy Board v. Peco, 234 Md. 200, 198 A.2d 273 (1964); Roeder v. Brown, 192 Md. 639, 65 A.2d 333 (1949); State Tax Commission v. Western Maryland Railway Co., 188 Md. 240, 52 A.2d 615 (1947). See also Code (1974), § 12-302(a) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, and the Revisor's Note appended thereto.

The Board of Appeals conceded in argument before us that it is a quasi-judicial agency, and that, therefore, the principle of the McKinney case is applicable to it. The Board argues, however, that the General Assembly has given it statutory authority to seek review of circuit court decisions overturning Board determinations. We agree.

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