Roe v. Harris

Decision Date21 May 1996
Docket NumberNo. 21668,21668
Citation128 Idaho 569,917 P.2d 403
PartiesJane ROE, in her capacity as general guardian and next friend of Cindy Roe, Mary Jones, individually and in her capacity as general guardian and next friend of Katie Jones, Planned Parenthood Association of Idaho, Inc., an Idaho non-profit corporation, Women's Health Care, Inc., Glenn Weyhrich, M.D., Duane St. Clair, M.D., and Downtown Women's Clinic, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Jerry L. HARRIS, Director, Department of Health and Welfare, and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Defendants-Respondents. Boise, February 1996 Term
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

Holland & Hart, Boise, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, New York, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., New York, for appellants. B. Newal Squyres and Louise Melling argued.

Alan G. Lance, Attorney General; Brett T. De Lange, Deputy Attorney General (argued), Boise, for respondents.

JOHNSON, Justice.

This is an attorney fees case in which the party requesting fees invoked both the private attorney general doctrine and I.C. § 12-117 (Supp.1995). We conclude as follows:

1. Between the private attorney general doctrine and I.C. § 12-117, the statute provides the exclusive basis for awarding attorney fees against a state agency.

2. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining the prevailing party or in denying discretionary costs.

3. The trial court abused its discretion in denying attorney fees pursuant to I.C. § 12-117 for a partial judgment declaring a conflict between a statute and an administrative rule.

I. THE BACKGROUND AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

A group (the group) consisting of two individual Medicaid-eligible women in need of abortions, a nonprofit health organization, two clinics, and two physicians who provide abortions, filed suit against the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) challenging the validity of I.C. § 56-209c No funds available to the department of health and welfare, by appropriation or otherwise, shall be used to pay for abortions, unless it is the recommendation of two (2) consulting physicians that an abortion is necessary to save the life or health of the mother, or unless the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest as determined by the courts.

(1994) and IDAPA 16.03.09095 (Rule 9095). Idaho Code § 56-209c, adopted in 1977, provides:

Four years later IDHW adopted Rule 9095.

[IDHW] will fund abortions only under the circumstances where the abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. Two (2) licensed physicians must certify in writing that the mother may die if the fetus is carried to term....

In resolving the substantive issues in the case, the trial court made the following decisions:

1. Idaho Code § 56-209c does not violate the state constitution.

2. Rule 9095 violates the state constitution.

3. Rule 9095 conflicts with I.C. § 56-209c.

4. The two-physician certification requirement in I.C. § 56-209c does not violate the state constitution.

Based on the trial court's decision, the group requested that the trial court award it attorney fees for the entire case pursuant to the private attorney general doctrine and to award it attorney fees for the part of the case concerning the conflict between Rule 9095 and I.C. § 56-209c pursuant to I.C. § 12-117. The group also requested an award of discretionary costs. Although the trial court found that the group was the prevailing party under I.R.C.P. 54(d)(1)(B), it rejected the group's claim for attorney fees and costs. The group appealed this decision.

II.

THE TRIAL COURT DID NOT ABUSE ITS DISCRETION IN DETERMINING THAT THE GROUP WAS THE PREVAILING PARTY.

IDHW asserts that the trial court should not have determined that the group was the prevailing party under I.R.C.P. 54(d)(1)(B). We disagree.

Although IDHW did not cross-appeal, we address this issue under the right result but wrong theory doctrine. See, e.g., Andre v. Morrow, 106 Idaho 455, 459, 680 P.2d 1355, 1359 (1984). IDHW is merely asserting another basis for upholding the trial court's decision not to award attorney fees and costs. IDHW is not seeking any affirmative relief that would require a cross-appeal. I.A.R. 11(f) (1995).

IDHW contends that the group prevailed only on their challenge to Rule 9095, while IDHW succeeded in defending the constitutionality of I.C. § 56-209c and the two-physician certification requirement. Rather than focusing on tallying the issues or the counts in the complaint however, the trial court should evaluate "the result in relation to the relief sought." Stewart v. Rice, 120 Idaho 504, 510, 817 P.2d 170, 176 (1991). We note that although the trial court upheld the constitutionality of I.C. § 56-209c, it did so by interpreting the statute in a manner that in large part embodied the group's requested relief. The group challenged the constitutionality of I.C. § 56-209c because it denied funding for abortions, while other "medically necessary" procedures and treatments, including those for childbirth, were funded. The trial court ruled that I.C. § 56-209c is constitutional "[s]o long as [it] is construed with sufficient breadth to equate the terms 'health' and 'life' with the same level of medical necessity as is required generally for other pregnancy related medical services." The group also succeeded in having Rule 9095 declared unconstitutional and in conflict with I.C. § 56-209c. The only relief sought which the group did not achieve was the elimination of the two-physician certification requirement.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that the group was the prevailing party. Stewart v. Rice, 120 Idaho 504, 510, 817 P.2d 170, 176 (1991) (holding that this Court reviews classification of prevailing party under I.R.C.P. 54(d)(1)(B) for abuse of

[128 Idaho 572] discretion). The trial court perceived the issue as one of discretion, it applied the correct legal standard, and it reached its decision by an exercise of reason. Sun Valley Shopping Ctr. v. Idaho Power Co., 119 Idaho 87, 94, 803 P.2d 993 1000 (1991).

III.

BETWEEN THE PRIVATE ATTORNEY GENERAL DOCTRINE AND I.C. § 12-117, THE STATUTE PROVIDES THE EXCLUSIVE BASIS FOR AN AWARD OF ATTORNEY FEES AGAINST A STATE AGENCY.

IDHW asserts that in the face of I.C. § 12-117, a court may not award attorney fees against it under the private attorney general doctrine. We agree.

The Court has never addressed the issue of the interplay between I.C. § 12-117 and the private attorney general doctrine. In many cases where the Court has discussed the private attorney general doctrine, I.C. § 12-117 did not apply because a state agency was not involved. E.g., Miller v. EchoHawk, 126 Idaho 47, 878 P.2d 746 (1994) (executive officer); Owner-Operator Indep. Drivers Ass'n, Inc. v. Idaho Pub. Util. Comm'n., 125 Idaho 401, 871 P.2d 818 (1994) (PUC not a state agency as defined by I.C. § 67-5201(1)). Idaho Code § 12-117 was amended in 1994 so that it now applies to "a state agency, a city, a county or other taxing district." I.C. § 12-117(1) (Supp.1995) (emphasis added). Thus, in some cases involving the private attorney general doctrine, I.C. § 12-117 did not apply, although it would now. E.g., County of Ada v. Red Steer Drive-Ins of Nevada, Inc., 101 Idaho 94, 609 P.2d 161 (1980).

In Fox v. Board of County Comm'rs, Boundary County, 121 Idaho 684, 827 P.2d 697 (1992), the Court affirmed an attorney fee award under the private attorney general doctrine and declined to address whether I.C. §§ 12-117 or 12-121 applied. We note that the question of exclusivity was not raised in Fox. Therefore, Fox does not resolve the issue presented here.

Bott v. Idaho State Bldg. Auth., 122 Idaho 471, 835 P.2d 1282 (1992) contains a statement concerning the relationship between I.C. § 12-117 and other bases for awarding attorney fees against a state agency. In Bott, the housing authority (the Authority) contended that attorney fees could not be awarded against it under I.C. § 12-120 because I.C. § 12-117 was controlling. The Court commented, "As the Authority correctly points out, if it is a 'state agency' then I.C. § 12-117 will apply and BBH, if the prevailing party below, would be entitled to attorney fees only if the Authority defended BBH's suit without a reasonable basis in fact or law." Id. at 479, 835 P.2d at 1290 (footnote omitted). The Court concluded, however, that there was no indication of legislative intent to "transform the Authority into an 'agency' and hence limit liability for attorney fees to that imposed under I.C. § 12-117(1)." Id. at 480, 835 P.2d at 1291. Because the Court decided that I.C. § 12-117 did not apply, and therefore upheld the award under I.C. § 12-120, its earlier statement concerning the exclusive application of I.C. § 12-117 is dicta.

In Hellar v. Cenarrusa, 106 Idaho 571, 682 P.2d 524, 531 (1984), the Court linked the authority to award attorney fees pursuant to the private attorney general doctrine to I.C. § 12-121. We must compare this formulation of the private attorney general doctrine to I.C. § 12-117, a statute specifically addressing attorney fees against state agencies adopted three months after Hellar was released. We note that there does not appear to be any connection between the issuance of Hellar and the enactment of I.C. § 12-117 because Hellar involved an executive officer who would not even fall within the scope of I.C. § 12-117.

In Mickelsen v. City of Rexburg, 101 Idaho 305, 307, 612 P.2d 542, 544 (1980), the Court ruled that in cases of conflicts, a later or more specific statute controls over an earlier or more general statute. Therefore, we must first address whether there is a conflict between I.C. § 12-117 and the private attorney general doctrine, which draws its viability from I.C. § 12-121. If the question were simply a conflict between I.C. §§ 12-121 and -117, the latter would prevail.

[128 Idaho 573] See Tomich v. City of Pocatello, 127 Idaho 394, 400, 901 P.2d 501, 507 (1...

To continue reading

Request your trial
23 cases
  • 1999 -NMSC- 5, New Mexico Right to Choose/NARAL v. Johnson
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court
    • 25 Noviembre 1998
    ...in denying an award of attorney fees to plaintiffs who prevailed in their challenge to such restrictions. See Roe v. Harris, 128 Idaho 569, 917 P.2d 403, 407 (1996). In four of the twelve states that have published opinions on the issue, however, the courts have not found provisions in thei......
  • Simat Corp. v. AHCCCS
    • United States
    • Arizona Supreme Court
    • 22 Octubre 2002
    ...mentioned in the text of this section, see Roe v. Harris, No. 96977 (Idaho Dist.Ct. Feb. 1, 1994), result approved by Roe v. Harris, 128 Idaho 569, 917 P.2d 403, 405 (1996); Clinic for Women, Inc. v. Humphreys, No. 49D12-9908-MI-1137 (Ind.Super.Ct. Oct. 18, 2000), review granted sub nom. Ha......
  • Humphreys v. Clinic for Women, Inc.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • 24 Septiembre 2003
    ...v. Myers, 29 Cal.3d 252, 172 Cal.Rptr. 866, 625 P.2d 779 (1981); Doe v. Maher, 40 Conn.Supp. 394, 515 A.2d 134 (1986); Roe v. Harris, 128 Idaho 569, 917 P.2d 403 (1996); Doe v. Wright, No. 91 Ch. 1958, slip op. (Ill. Cir.Ct. Dec. 2, 1994), leave to file late appeal denied, No. 78512 (Ill. F......
  • Credit Bureau Of Eastern Idaho Inc v. Lecheminant
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • 18 Junio 2010
    ...977 P.2d 199, 202 (1999) (citing K. Hefner, Inc. v. Caremark, Inc., 128 Idaho 726, 732, 918 P.2d 595, 601 (1996); Roe v. Harris, 128 Idaho 569, 572, 917 P.2d 403, 406 (1996)). As the more specific provision, applicable only when collecting on a judgment, I.C. § 12-120(5) applies to the excl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT