Sierra Life Ins. Co. v. Granata, No. 13007

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtDURTSCHI
Citation99 Idaho 624,586 P.2d 1068
Docket NumberNo. 13007
Decision Date22 November 1978
PartiesSIERRA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, an Idaho Corporation, Petitioner, v. The Honorable George GRANATA, Jr., District Judge, District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, In and For the County of Twin Falls, Respondent.

Page 1068

586 P.2d 1068
99 Idaho 624
SIERRA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, an Idaho Corporation, Petitioner,
v.
The Honorable George GRANATA, Jr., District Judge, District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, In and For the County of Twin Falls, Respondent.
No. 13007.
Supreme Court of Idaho.
Nov. 22, 1978.

[99 Idaho 625]

Page 1069

Joseph M. Imhoff, Jr., of Imhoff, Lynch & Davis, Wilbur T. Nelson, of Nelson & Westberg, Boise, for petitioner.

R. Michael Southcombe, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Ins., and Max Eiden, Jr., Boise, for respondent.

DURTSCHI, Justice Pro Tem.

In this original proceeding this Court issued an alternative writ of mandate directing the respondent district judge to assume jurisdiction over the subject matter in the case of Sierra Life Insurance Company v. Monroe C. Gollaher, as the Director of Insurance of the State of Idaho, or in the alternative to show cause why he should not do so.

This action involves only a question of law and has been submitted on the basis of the pleadings, briefs, and oral argument.

The pleadings indicate that in February, 1978, Sierra was informed that it would be subjected to a statutory examination by the Idaho Director of Insurance commencing on March 6, 1978. Because of earlier controversies between the Idaho insurance department and Sierra extending over several years, Sierra obtained a conference between the Director and his staff, and the president of Sierra and lawyers representing Sierra. As a result of that conference and subsequent information, Sierra alleges that it had determined that in the course of the proposed examination the Director and his examiners, in determining the admissibility and valuation of certain assets of Sierra, would disregard and fail to properly apply controlling statutes of the state of Idaho; [99 Idaho 626]

Page 1070

would also refuse to abide by an earlier administrative decision and order which is legally binding under the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel; and would refuse to abide by a final order of the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of New Mexico which is legally binding under the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution. Sierra alleges that these claimed actions will result in irreparable damage to Sierra.

Sierra then filed a verified motion with the Director on March 2, 1978, asking the Director to either (1) enter an agreed order regarding the proper conduct of the proposed examination and directing the examiners to comply with the statutes as interpreted by Sierra and give full effect to the prior administrative order and decision and the final order of the New Mexico Court, or (2) stay the proposed examination and afford Sierra a hearing on its alleged grievances.

On March 3, 1978, the Director informed Sierra that he would neither enter the proposed order nor stay the examination. On March 6, 1978, the Director attempted to commence the proposed examination at Sierra's office in Twin Falls County. Sierra then commenced the district court action by filing its original complaint on March 6, 1978. In its complaint Sierra detailed the contentions heretofore summarized and prayed for a declaratory judgment "declaring the rights and legal position of the parties and the law governing the issues." Sierra also sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction restraining the Director from conducting the examination pending the trial and determination of the declaratory judgment action.

On March 6, 1978, the district court entered a temporary restraining order enjoining the Director and his examiners from commencing any examination of the affairs and conditions of Sierra until further order of the court. On March 16, 1978, the Director filed a motion to dismiss, asserting the following grounds:

(1) The complaint fails to state a claim for relief against this defendant;

(2) Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim for relief cognizable under the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure for injunction;

(3) Plaintiff herein is not entitled to extraordinary relief through injunction as there exists a clear and adequate remedy at law;

(4) This court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter and the defendant.

The district judge heard oral argument on the motion and issued his opinion on May 12, 1978, in which he concluded that the district court had jurisdiction to issue the temporary restraining order but did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter as to the declaratory judgment action. The district judge ultimately entered an order of dismissal reciting as grounds that "the District Court of Twin Falls County does not have jurisdiction over the subject matter to hear or consider the declaratory judgment action of the Plaintiff on its merits . . . ."

This court issued its Alternative Writ of Mandate for the single purpose of considering whether or not the district court had jurisdiction over the subject matter.

As a preliminary matter we note that the extraordinary remedies of mandamus and prohibition are properly used to test questions of jurisdiction. Coeur d'Alene Turf Club, Inc., v. Cogswell, 93 Idaho 324, 461 P.2d 107 (1969); State v. Winstead, 66 Idaho 504, 162 P.2d 894 (1945); Hill v. Morgan, 9 Idaho 718, 76 P. 323 (1904); Peisker v. Chavez, 46 N.M. 159, 123 P.2d 726 (1942).

Furthermore, because of the serious ramifications and consequences which could follow from a court acting without jurisdiction over the subject matter, we recognize that it is important to keep that concept clearly defined. For example, the defense of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter is never waived (I.R.C.P. 12(h)); purported judgments entered by a court without jurisdiction over the subject matter are void and as such are subject to collateral attack, and are not entitled to recognition[99 Idaho 627]

Page 1071

in other states under the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution (Restatement of Judgments, § 7 (1942)). In addition, judges who act without jurisdiction over the subject matter may be liable for damages in civil actions. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978); Bradley v. Fisher, 13...

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32 practice notes
  • Sheppard v. Sheppard, No. 13272
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • December 16, 1982
    ...Full faith and credit is not to be accorded a decree of a court which lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Sierra Life Ins. Co. v. Granata, 99 Idaho 624, 586 P.2d 1068 (1978); Newell v. Newell, 77 Idaho 355, 293 P.2d 663 (1956). George Sheppard asserts that the tribal court had no jurisdicti......
  • Andre v. Morrow, No. 14843
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • April 13, 1984
    ...Cal.App.3d 900, 144 Cal.Rptr. 557 (1978); Stevens v. Stevens, 44 Colo.App. 252, 611 P.2d 590 (1980); Sierra Life Insurance Co. v. Granata, 99 Idaho 624, 586 P.2d 1068 (1978); National Equipment Rental, Ltd. v. Taylor, 225 Kan. 58, 587 P.2d 870 (1978); Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Law......
  • State v. Armstrong, No. 33868.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • August 15, 2008
    ...lacked subject matter jurisdiction to issue an order or judgment carries far-reaching consequences. In Sierra Life Ins. Co. v. Granata, 99 Idaho 624, 586 P.2d 1068 (1978), our Supreme Court noted that the general concept of "jurisdiction" is very broad and has many facets, and it then [B]ec......
  • Idaho Dep't of Health & Welfare v. John Doe, 37746.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • November 4, 2010
    ...a case even though it has jurisdiction over the subject matter." Id. at 373, 195 P.3d at 734 (quoting Sierra Life Ins. Co. v. Granata, 99 Idaho 624, 627, 586 P.2d 1068, 1071 (1978) ).We then noted that our Supreme Court has, at times, employed a narrow definition of subject matter jurisdict......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
32 cases
  • Sheppard v. Sheppard, No. 13272
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • December 16, 1982
    ...Full faith and credit is not to be accorded a decree of a court which lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Sierra Life Ins. Co. v. Granata, 99 Idaho 624, 586 P.2d 1068 (1978); Newell v. Newell, 77 Idaho 355, 293 P.2d 663 (1956). George Sheppard asserts that the tribal court had no jurisdicti......
  • Andre v. Morrow, No. 14843
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • April 13, 1984
    ...Cal.App.3d 900, 144 Cal.Rptr. 557 (1978); Stevens v. Stevens, 44 Colo.App. 252, 611 P.2d 590 (1980); Sierra Life Insurance Co. v. Granata, 99 Idaho 624, 586 P.2d 1068 (1978); National Equipment Rental, Ltd. v. Taylor, 225 Kan. 58, 587 P.2d 870 (1978); Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Law......
  • State v. Armstrong, No. 33868.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • August 15, 2008
    ...lacked subject matter jurisdiction to issue an order or judgment carries far-reaching consequences. In Sierra Life Ins. Co. v. Granata, 99 Idaho 624, 586 P.2d 1068 (1978), our Supreme Court noted that the general concept of "jurisdiction" is very broad and has many facets, and it then [B]ec......
  • Idaho Dep't of Health & Welfare v. John Doe, 37746.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • November 4, 2010
    ...a case even though it has jurisdiction over the subject matter." Id. at 373, 195 P.3d at 734 (quoting Sierra Life Ins. Co. v. Granata, 99 Idaho 624, 627, 586 P.2d 1068, 1071 (1978) ).We then noted that our Supreme Court has, at times, employed a narrow definition of subject matter jurisdict......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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