Ward School Bus Mfg., Inc. v. Fowler, 76-150

CourtSupreme Court of Arkansas
Citation261 Ark. 100,547 S.W.2d 394
Docket NumberNo. 76-150,76-150
PartiesWARD SCHOOL BUS MANUFACTURING, INC., et al., Appellants, v. Carthel FOWLER, Appellee.
Decision Date22 February 1977

Wright, Lindsey & Jennings, Little Rock, for appellants.

Youngdahl, Larrison & Agee, Little Rock, for appellee.

HICKMAN, Justice.

This is a direct appeal of a case from the Workmen's Compensation Commission under Act 1227, 1975, of the General Assembly. Section 15 of that act provides for an appeal directly to the Supreme Court of Arkansas rather than to the circuit court.

The first consideration of this court is the constitutionality of Act 1227.

The Arkansas Constitution, Art. 7, § 4, sets forth the jurisdiction and powers of the Supreme Court of Arkansas.

The Supreme Court, except in cases otherwise provided by this Constitution, shall have appellate jurisdiction only, which shall be coextensive with the State, under such restrictions as may from time to time be prescribed by law. It shall have a general superintending control over all inferior courts of law and equity; and, in aid of its appellate and supervisory jurisdiction, it shall have power to issue writs of error and supersedeas, certiorari, habeas corpus, prohibition, mandamus and quo warranto, and, other remedial writs, and to hear and determine the same. Its judges shall be conservators of the peace throughout the State, and shall severally have power to issue any of the aforesaid writs.

Section 4, in essence, provides that the Supreme Court of Arkansas, with certain exceptions, shall have appellate jurisdiction only. Appellate jurisdiction means the review of an order or decree of an inferior court. Ex Parte Levy, 204 Ark. 657, 163 S.W.2d 529 (1942).

Therefore, one of the questions presented by Act 1227 is whether or not the Workmen's Compensation Commission is a court. The Workmen's Compensation Commission is an administrative agency which exercises some quasi-jurisdiction functions and makes awards which are considered judgments. Andrews v. Gross & Janes Tie Company, 214 Ark. 210, 216 S.W.2d 386 (1948). The Commission cannot enforce its own orders. According to Ark.Stat.Ann. § 81-1325(c) (Repl. 1976), the circuit clerk has to file the order or judgment and thereafter the enforcement is in accordance with the procedures used by circuit courts. It can, of course, be argued that the Commission is a court and, therefore, Act 1227 simply provides for an appeal to the Supreme Court. But the General Assembly does not have the power to create courts. Art. 7, § 1, Constitution of the State of Arkansas, 1874. Also, Jansen v. Blissenbach, 214 Ark. 755, 217 S.W.2d 849 (1949).

Another question to be resolved is an interpretation of Amendment 26 to the Arkansas Constitution which authorized the General Assembly to provide for Workmen's Compensation benefits. Amendment 26 provides:

Art. V, Sec. 32. The General Assembly shall have power to enact laws prescribing the amount of compensation to be paid by employers for injuries to or death of employees, and to whom said payment shall be made. It shall have power to provide the means, methods, and forum for adjudicating claims arising under said laws, and for securing payment of same. Provided, that otherwise no law shall be enacted limiting the amount to be recovered for injuries resulting in death or for injuries to persons or property; and in case of death from such injuries the right of action shall survive, and the General Assembly shall prescribe for whose benefit such action shall be prosecuted.

The question that must be resolved regarding Amendment 26 is: Does Amendment 26 amend Article 7 of the Constitution and thereby permit a direct appeal to the Supreme Court of Arkansas? There is no language in Amendment 26 which explicitly provides for such an appeal. The critical sentence in Amendment 26 which must be considered provides:

It (the General Assembly) shall have power to provide the means, methods, and forum for adjudicating claims arising under said laws, and for securing payment of same.

Means refers to the agency or instrument to attain an end. Method is the way, manner or procedure for doing anything. Forum is, of course, a court or tribunal. There is nothing beyond this language, express or implied, which indicates that the system of courts in Arkansas, as provided for in the Arkansas Constitution, will be changed.

We are sure that the legislative intent for Act 1227 is for a good purpose, and is apparently to provide for a speed-up in processing Workmen's Compensation cases. But this assumes that all cases must be appealed. Wherever the fault lies in the system, with claims, legislation, the commission, or the courts, the problem cannot be resolved constitutionally by Section 15 of Act 1227. We find that Section 15 of Act 1227, 1975, is unconstitutional and void.

Remanded to the Workmen's Compensation Commission in order that it may transmit the record to the circuit court of Faulkner County.

FOGLEMAN, J., concurs.

BYRD, J., dissents.

FOGLEMAN, Justice.

I thoroughly agree with the majority opinion, but I feel constrained to point out that there is a very definite reason why the dissenting judge's construction of Amendment 26 is both wrong and unacceptable.

The author of that opinion takes one definition of the word "forum," incorporates it into the Amendment, and thereby makes of the Workmen's Compensation Commission something that it is not, i.e., a court, entirely overlooking the fact that "forum" has a different meaning, i.e., a tribunal, a place where a remedy is sought. A court or judicial tribunal is a forum, but a forum is not necessarily a judicial tribunal. Every court is a tribunal but a tribunal is not necessarily a court. Alabam's Freight Co. v. Hunt, 29 Ariz. 419, 242 P. 658 (1926). We have many tribunals, forums or places where remedies are sought in Arkansas other than the Workmen's Compensation Commission which are not courts, even though they "adjudicate claims" or exercise quasi-judicial functions: For example:

State Medical Board. See Bockman v. Arkansas State Medical Board, 229 Ark. 143, 313 S.W.2d 826.

Public Service Commission. See Southwestern Gas & Electric Co. v. Town of Hatfield, 219 Ark. 515, 243 S.W.2d 378.

Employment Security Division. See Hickenbottom v. McCain, 207 Ark. 485, 181 S.W.2d 226, cert. den. 323 U.S. 777, 65 S.Ct 189, 89 L.Ed. 621, reh. den. 323 U.S. 817, 65 S.Ct. 267, 89 L.Ed. 649.

There are dozens of others, but these serve to point up the flaw in the dissenter's reasoning that a forum for adjudicating claims is a court. In rejecting just such an argument and holding that New Jersey's Division of Workmen's Compensation was not a court, and thus its Supreme Court was without jurisdiction to grant an appeal from the division's "judgment" on certification to the division, that court said:

The failure to comprehend that administrative adjudication is not judicial springs from the erroneous notion that all adjudication is judicial. * * *

Certainly it cannot seriously be argued that such a board, commission or agency is in any sense of the word a court or judicial tribunal.

The powers of the General Assembly are set out in Amendment 26, which amended Art. 5 § 32. Under this amendment, it shall have the power to provide the means, method and forum for adjudicating claims. It is significant that the singular "the forum" is used. Not "the forums." It is also significant that the power is to provide, not designate. So the power of the General Assembly is to "provide the forum." And we have said that when it created an administrative tribunal, which acts in a quasi-judicial capacity, it did what it was empowered to do (and all it was empowered to do). In J. L. Williams & Sons v. Smith, 205 Ark. 604, 170 S.W.2d 82, we said:

* * * It thus appears that the lawmaking powers of this state, after great deliberation, have provided the commission as the forum for trying all questions of fact arising in connection with claims under this act and have made its findings conclusive and binding, in the absence of fraud, if there be sufficient competent evidence to warrant the making of the finding. It is also expressly enacted that there be no review in court except on questions of law.

Putting aside for a moment the meaning of the word forum in Amendment 26, when we look at what the General Assembly did in the exercise of its power "to provide the forum for adjudicating claims arising under laws" prescribing the amount of compensation to be paid by employers for injuries to or death of employees and to whom said payment shall be made," we see very clearly that it did not create a court. We have clearly held that the Workmen's Compensation Commission is an administrative agency, not a court, even though it exercises quasi-judicial functions and its awards are in the nature of judgments. Andrews v. Gross & Janes Tie Co., 214 Ark. 210, 216 S.W.2d 386; Davis v. Arkansas Best Freight System, Inc., 239 Ark. 632, 393 S.W.2d 237, 17 A.L.R.3d 986; DuraCraft Boats, Inc. v. Daugherty, 247 Ark. 125, 444 S.W.2d 562.

Not only is the commission not a court, it really could not be. One of the indicia in determining whether or not a tribunal, or forum, for that matter, is a court is its power to enforce its own orders. See South Atlantic S.S. Co. of Delaware v. Tutson, 139 Fla. 405, 190 S. 675 (1939); State v. Cannon, 206 Wis. 374, 240 N.W. 441 (1932).

As pointed out in the majority opinion the Workmen's Compensation Commission does not have this power. Ark.Stat.Ann. § 81-1325 (c) (Repl.1976) provides

Enforcement of order or award. If any employer fails to comply with a final compensation order or award, any beneficiary of such order or award, or the Commission, may file a certified copy of the said order or award in the office of the circuit clerk of any county in this State where any property of the employer may be found, whereupon the circuit clerk shall enter the said...

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