Sueppel v. Eads, 52777

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation261 Iowa 923,156 N.W.2d 115
Docket NumberNo. 52777,52777
PartiesWilliam F. SUEPPEL, Commissioner of Public Safety of the State of Iowa, and the Department of Public Safety, Appellants, v. The Honorable William R. EADS, Judge of the District Court of Iowa, in and for Linn County, Appellee.
Decision Date06 February 1968

Richard C. Turner, Atty. Gen., and Joseph W. Zeller, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellants.

Robert C. Nelson, Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

RAWLINGS, Justice.

Original certiorari to review judgment of defendant court setting aside and vacating orders by state department of public safety suspending three separate licenses to operate a motor vehicle.

The cases here involved, consolidated for purpose of hearing on appeal, are in like manner presented for review.

Plaintiff commissioner, finding Thomas Ray Cowell, Leroy Charles Mann and Myrle Joseph Dietzenbach, hereafter sometimes referred to as offenders, to be 'habitual violators' caused orders to issue suspending operator's license of each for a period of 30 days.

None of these offenders requested hearing before the commissioner or his agent. (Code section 321.211) But each appealed to the trial court. (Code section 321.215) Plaintiffs answered and resisted.

Prior to hearing on appeal counsel for offenders attempted presentation of a stipulation to which there was in large part no agreement. None of them testified or presented any evidence on their behalf.

To all intents and purposes each case was presented and appears to have been determined on the basis of a transcript of proceedings before the commissioner. (Code section 321.215)

The record discloses, without dispute, the following convictions for violation of motor vehicle traffic laws by each offender prior to issuance of license suspension orders here in question.

THOMAS RAY COWELL: June 30, 1963, speeding; October 18, 1964, speeding; May 21, 1965, disobeying traffic signal; June 17, 1965, night speeding. (License suspension notice issued June 30, 1965.)

LEROY CHARLES MANN: July, 1963, speeding; March 12, 1965, speeding; April 29, 1965, failure to stop for stop sign; October 9, 1965, disobeying traffic signal. (License suspension notice issued November 19, 1965.)

Myrle Joseph Dietzenbach: November 14, 1964, speeding; July 27, 1965, speeding; October 5, 1965, speeding. (License suspension notice issued November 23, 1965.)

In setting aside and vacating the challenged suspension orders trial court, finding the term 'habitual violator' not defined and too indefinite, concluded the administrative proceedings were illegal. We do not agree.

I. Certiorari is appropriate where an inferior tribunal is alleged to have exceeded its proper jurisdiction or otherwise acted illegally. Rule 306, R.C.P., and Butler v. Pension Board of Police Dept., 259 Iowa 1028, 147 N.W.2d 27, 30.

And where, as in the case at hand, material facts are undisputed, it is for us to review and determine the finding as a matter of law. Bump v. District Court, 232 Iowa 623, 630, 5 N.W.2d 914. See also Powers v. McCullough, 258 Iowa 738, 741, 140 N.W.2d 378.

In that same vein, if there is no substantial evidence to support findings upon which a lower tribunal arrives at a challenged conclusion of law, it acts illegally. City of Sioux City v. Civil Service Commission, 247 Iowa 1254, 1258, 78 N.W.2d 833.

Although Code section 321.215 says in part, a decision of the court on appeal shall be final, certiorari still lies to review it. As we said in Hohl v. Board of Ed., 250 Iowa 502, 508--509, 94 N.W.2d 787: 'Certiorari is the method of bringing the record of an inferior tribunal before the court for the purpose of ascertaining whether the inferior tribunal or body had jurisdiction and whether its proceedings were authorized. See 19 Iowa Law Review 467. Clearly it comes within the supervisory functions of the appellate courts and is necessary to keep all such bodies within their proper functions and to prevent them from acting in an illegal manner. It is an extraordinary remedy, and the courts may make it Available to all persons who may show a substantial interest in the matter challenged. (Authorities cited).'

II. The basic question presented, common to all three cases, is whether trial court exceeded its jurisdiction or otherwise acted illegally.

On that issue plaintiffs have the burden of proof. Richard v. Holliday, Iowa, 153 N.W.2d 473, 476, and Newby v. District Court, 259 Iowa 1330, 147 N.W.2d 886, 890.

III. Although plaintiffs assert four errors relied upon for reversal, they may be consolidated for brevity into one broad assignment: Trial court erred in holding the term 'habitual violator', without statutory standards or departmental definition, too vague and uncertain to stand as a lawful basis for suspension of an operator's license by an administrative officer.

In Richard v. Holliday, supra, this court was confronted with substantially the same problem as here posed with reference to license suspension because of a 'serious violation' of motor vehicle laws. We there held the quoted term sufficiently certain to permit exercise of administrative sanction by the public safety commissioner. See also Danner v. Hass, 257 Iowa 654, 661--664, 134 N.W.2d 534.

The same question here involved was recently presented in Anderson v. Commissioner of Highways, 267 Minn. 308, 126 N.W.2d 778, 9 A.L.R.3d 746. Resolving the matter contrary to conclusion reached by trial court in the cases at bar, the Minnesota court reasoned, loc. cit., 126 N.W.2d 781--784:

'With respect to the standard expressed by the words 'habitual violator,' it may be said that there is a division among the courts of the various states as to the validity of traffic and license laws using that term. In Harvell v. Scheidt, 249 N.C. 699, 706, 107 S.E.2d 549, 554, the Supreme Court of North Carolina considered a statute identical to ours so far as the relevant subclause is concerned. The court held that such a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
23 cases
  • Cedar Rapids Steel Transp., Inc. v. Iowa State Commerce Commission, 53031
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 5 Septiembre 1968
    ...acted illegally. Smith v. City of Fort Dodge, Iowa, 160 N.W.2d 492, opinion filed July 18, 1968, and citations; Sueppel v. Eads, Iowa, 156 N.W.2d 115, 117; and Mangan v. Department of Public Safety, 258 Iowa 359, 364, 138 N.W.2d Petitioner's actions stand in certiorari and trial court erred......
  • State v. Nichols, 60379
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 19 Abril 1978
    ...the public highways is clearly within police power of the state." See also Danner v. Hass, 257 Iowa 654, 134 N.W.2d 534; Sueppel v. Eads, 261 Iowa 923, 156 N.W.2d 115; State v. Robbins, 257 N.W.2d 63 (Iowa); State v. Randall, 258 N.W.2d 359 (Iowa); State v. Randall, 259 N.W.2d 543 After exa......
  • Wright v. Denato, 53954
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 23 Junio 1970
    ...832, 834; Staads v. Board of Trustees, Iowa, 159 N.W.2d 485, 489; Smith v. City of Ft. Dodge, Iowa, 160 N.W.2d 492, 495; Sueppel v. Eads, 261 Iowa 923, 926, 156 N.W.2d 115, We limit our discussion to the particular issue involved--the right to counsel upon prosecution for an indictable misd......
  • State v. Cullison, 2--57573
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 19 Marzo 1975
    ...conflicting inferences may be drawn from the facts it is for us to review trial court's conclusions as a matter of law. Sueppel v. Eads, 261 Iowa 923, 926, 156 N.W.2d 115, 116 (1968). And in reviewing law issues, this court is not bound by trial court's ruling. City of Burlington v. Citizen......
  • 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