Rolette Educ. Ass'n v. Rolette Public School Dist. No. 29

Decision Date16 August 1988
Docket NumberNo. 880024,880024
Citation427 N.W.2d 812
Parties48 Ed. Law Rep. 961 ROLETTE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. ROLETTE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 29, a public corporation, Defendant and Appellee. Civ.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Chapman & Chapman, Bismarck, for plaintiff and appellant; argued by Michael J. Geiermann.

Pearce & Durick, Bismarck, for defendant and appellee; argued by Gary R. Thune.

MESCHKE, Justice.

The Rolette Education Association [REA] appealed from a judgment denying declaratory and injunctive relief against the Rolette Public School District No. 29 [School District]. We hold that the appeal is moot, and accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

REA represents Rolette teachers under Chapter 15-38.1, N.D.C.C. Part of their 1985 negotiated agreement with the School District said:

"FRINGE BENEFITS

"A single health insurance policy or an equal amount in an annuity through Horace Mann Insurance Companies will be paid by the school board. Any change of carriers must be approved by both the board [School District] and the REA.

"The District will provide a single coverage Income Protection Plan." [Emphasis added].

During the 1985-86 school year Blue Cross/Blue Shield was their health insurer. REA and the School District agreed to North Dakota Educator's Insurance Trust (NDEIT) as their health insurer for the 1986-87 school year. In September 1987, for the first time and without approval of REA, the School District advertised for bids for health insurance for all of its employees. Bids were received from Blue Cross/Blue Shield and NDEIT. Blue Cross/Blue Shield had the lowest bid. REA acknowledged that both bidders were "responsible bidders," but did not approve a change. The School District changed insurers and accepted the Blue Cross/Blue Shield bid.

REA sued the School District, claiming that unilateral change of health insurers breached their negotiated agreement. The trial court concluded that Section 15-47-15, N.D.C.C., 1 required bids for health insurance contracts and that that statutory obligation could not be subverted by an agreement between teachers and a school district authorized by Chapter 15-38.1, N.D.C.C. The trial court further concluded that, because bids were statutorily required for health insurance, the part of the agreement requiring approval of REA to change carriers was void and unenforceable. REA appealed the judgment denying relief, contending that subsection 1 of Sec. 15-47-15, N.D.C.C., on "personal services of employees," excepts health insurance coverage from bidding requirements.

At oral argument, counsel for REA commendably informed us that, without his knowledge, REA and the School District had recently ratified a new negotiated agreement without the earlier-quoted clause on fringe benefits. The related part of the new negotiated agreement says:

"7. Fringe Benefits

* * *

* * *

"c. In recognition that insurance contracts (presumably) fall under the public bidding law and that carriers will be ascribed in accordance to the law, it is imperative to guarantee that the policyholder(s) are provided adequate and responsible coverage. Adequate and responsible coverage would mandate that all bid specifications meet the approval of the Board and REA."

Because the new agreement does not include the clause requiring mutual approval of a change of insurance carriers that was the subject of this lawsuit and appeal, counsel for REA reluctantly moved to dismiss this appeal as moot. Counsel for the School District opposed the motion, asserting that the issue involved great public interest and was capable of repetition, yet evading review.

In State v. Liberty National Bank and Trust Co., 427 N.W.2d 307, 308 (N.D.1988), we recently observed that we "will not dismiss an appeal as moot where the matter in controversy is one of great public interest and involves the authority and power of public officials, or where the matter is ' "capable of repetition, yet evading review." ' "

In Forum Publishing Co. v. City of Fargo, 391 N.W.2d 169, 170 (N.D.1986), we reiterated a definition of "public interest":

" ' "We understand 'public interest' to mean more than mere curiosity; it means something in which the public, the community at large, has some pecuniary interest, or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected. It does not mean anything so narrow as the interest of the particular localities which may be affected by the matter in question." ' "

In Forum Publishing Co., supra, the trial court held that applications for police chief for the city of Fargo were subject to the open-records law even in the hands of a third-party consulting firm. After stays pending appeal were denied, the documents were released to the public. We concluded that the appeal was not moot because the case dealt with the right of the public to be informed, a matter of great public interest, and because the case also dealt with the authority and power of public bodies in hiring public officials.

Similarly, in Liberty National Bank, supra, we held that an appeal was not moot. The issue was whether a three-year holding period for divestiture of land by a bank under Sec. 10-06-13, N.D.C.C., was preempted by federal law. The Bank sold the land while the appeal was pending. We concluded that the enforcement of the corporate farming laws by the State itself was a matter of great public interest.

In contrast, in St. Onge v. Elkin, 376 N.W.2d 41 (N.D.1985), we held that an appeal was moot where the appeal was about whether gas rates should be calculated on the cost of purchased gas on a company-wide basis and where a stipulation and order subsequent to the lower court decision had resulted in rates calculated on that basis. We concluded that, although the issue might arise again, it did not have such great public interest that its resolution was necessary. Because the relief sought had been granted, we felt that an opinion would have been purely advisory with little or no benefit to the parties or the public.

This case is distinguishable from Liberty National Bank, supra, and Forum Publishing Co.,...

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8 cases
  • Gosbee v. Bendish
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1994
    ...record may arise in the future, that alone does not empower us to render a purely advisory opinion. Rolette Educ. Ass'n v. Rolette Pub. Sch. Dist. No. 29, 427 N.W.2d 812, 814 (N.D.1988); St. Onge, 376 N.W.2d at 43; Peoples State Bank of Velva, 258 N.W.2d at 146. We do not perceive this to b......
  • Sposato v. Sposato, 970067
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • November 6, 1997
    ...future, that alone does not empower us to render a purely advisory opinion. Gosbee, 512 N.W.2d at 454; Rolette Educ. Ass'n v. Rolette Pub. Sch. Dist., 427 N.W.2d 812, 814 (N.D.1988); St. Onge v. Elkin, 376 N.W.2d 41, 43 (N.D.1985). If the district court orders out-of-state visitation in the......
  • State v. Hansen, 20050387.
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • June 29, 2006
    ...556 N.W.2d at 668. Here, Hansen's guilty plea made the issue moot, not time alone. See Ashley, at 668; Rolette Educ. Ass'n v. Rolette Pub. Sch. Dist., 427 N.W.2d 812, 814-15 (N.D.1988). We conclude the issue raised in this appeal is not capable of repetition in a manner that will evade revi......
  • North Dakota Council of School Administrators v. Sinner, 38 and C
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • July 3, 1990
    ...officials, or where the matter is capable of repetition, yet evading review. See, e.g., Rolette Education Association v. Rolette Public School District No. 29, 427 N.W.2d 812, 814 (N.D.1988); State v. Liberty National Bank and Trust Co., 427 N.W.2d 307, 308 (N.D.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 95......
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