Hall v. Banking Review Bd.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Citation108 N.W.2d 543,13 Wis.2d 359
PartiesNoble L. HALL et al., Appellants, v. BANKING REVIEW BOARD of Wisconsin et al., Respondents.
Decision Date04 April 1961

John W. Reynolds, Atty. Gen., Roy G. Tulane, Asst. Atty. Gen., William J. Keating, Ralph M. Hoyt, Milwaukee, of counsel, for respondents.


The applicants, commissioner, and banking review board were acting pursuant to sec. 221.01, Stats., governing the organization of a banking corporation. When an application has been made under subs. (1) and (2), sub. (3) requires the commissioner to issue a notice of hearing. Sub. (5) requires him to ascertain 'at the hearing' and by other investigation a number of specified facts. Sub. (6) provides:

'After completing such investigation the commissioner shall make a written report to the banking review board stating the results of his investigation and his recommendation. The board shall consider the matter, conducting any necessary hearing, and promptly make its decision approving or disapproving the organization of the proposed bank. Such decision shall be final except for review in court. If approval is given, the commissioner shall indorse on each of the original applications the word 'Approved' over his official signature. If disapproved, he shall indorse the word 'Disapproved' over his official signature. One of the duplicate originals shall be filed in his office and one returned by mail to the applicants.'

In the event of approval, sub. (10) requires the commissioner to issue a certificate of authority.

Sec. 220.035, Stats., provides for the appointment of the banking review board, specifies certain powers and duties, and contains procedural provisions. One of the board's powers is to review acts and determinations of the commissioner upon application of an aggrieved party. In exercising that power, the relationship between the functions of the board and the commissioner is different from the relationship between their functions under sec. 221.01. In the situation governed by sec. 220.035, the commissioner makes a decision, and the board affirms, modifies, or reverses it subject to some of the ordinary limitations on the scope of review. Under sec. 221.01, the commissioner recommends a particular decision, but the only decision is made by the board.

Notwithstanding the differences, it seems reasonable that the following provisions of sec. 220.035, Stats., were intended to govern the board when acting under sec. 221.01:

'(3) Any final order or determination of the banking review board shall be subject to review in the manner provided in chapter 227.

'(4) * * * The board may make reasonable rules and regulations not inconsistent with law as to the time of meetings, time of hearings, notice of hearings and manner of conducting same and of deciding the matters presented. * * *' (Emphasis supplied.)

The petitioners rely upon the following portion of sec. 221.01(6), Stats.: 'Such decision shall be final except for review in court.' They argue essentially that the board had made its decision (which the statute says should be final) when a majority voted to approve the application, and thus had exhausted its power in the matter.

The parties have cited several decisions dealing with the power of an administrative officer or board to reopen or grant rehearing of a proceeding after decision or change an official action once taken. None of these authorities deal with facts closely similar to the facts before us. The parties seem to agree with the following statement:

'The jurisdiction of an administrative agency over its own judgments can be determined only by an interpretation of the statute which has created the agency. Irrespective of the statute, any continuing jurisdiction may be cut off by judicial review of the administrative decision. No general statement can exactly define the time when the power of continuing control is lost.' 1

In our view, the question in this case is not whether the board had continuing jurisdiction over the proceeding after a decision had once been made; rather, it is whether the vote of approval constituted a decision by the board under the circumstances.

In the matter of the other application considered at the same meeting, the board apparently adopted a written decision including findings and conclusions, and instructed the secretary to mail copies to interested persons. Although no such action was taken at the meeting with respect to the approval or disapproval of the Glendale application, a written decision of disapproval was formulated a few days later, signed, filed, and copies mailed out.

It appears to us that in the absence of a statute prescribing procedure, an administrative board must have reasonable latitude in determining how its decisions are to be formulated and announced, and that until such reasonable procedure has been completed the decision cannot be said to have been made. Where groups of people meet in order to make collective decisions, a procedure for prompt reconsideration is generally recognized. 2 Certainly a rule that a resolution does not constitute decision until the adjournment of the meeting at which it was adopted, or until it has been reduced to writing and signed within a reasonable time, would be authorized by sec. 220.035(4), Stats., permitting the board to regulate the 'manner * * * of deciding the matters presented.' It is true that the board has not adopted such a rule, but in our opinion the board was within reasonable bounds in taking the position that it could reconsider the vote of approval at the same meeting and before any announcement had been made or written decision issued.

Our conclusion that the vote of approval did not achieve finality is further supported by the proposition that the law required the board's decision to be in writing, accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions of law. The board did fulfill that requirement, but not until May 4th. Until it was fulfilled, one could not be certain as to what findings the majority of the board would agree to. 3

Sec. 227.13, Stats.1953, required a written decision accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions of law 'in a contested case.' Sec. 227.01(3), Stats.1953, 4 provided:

"Contested case' means a proceeding in which, after hearing required by law, the legal rights, duties or privileges of any party to such proceeding are determined or directly affected by a decision or order in such proceeding and in which the assertion by one party of any such right, duty or privilege is denied or...

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    ...12 N.W.2d 743; Wisconsin Hydro Electric Co. v. Public Service Comm. (1940), 234 Wis. 627, 291 N.W. 784, with Hall v. Banking Review Board (1961), 13 Wis.2d 359, 108 N.W.2d 543; Lodi Telephone Co. v. Public Service Comm. (1952), 262 Wis. 416, 55 N.W.2d 379. See also: United R. & W.D.S.E. of ......
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