Washington Public Employees Ass'n v. Washington Personnel Resources Bd., No. 21384-2-II

CourtCourt of Appeals of Washington
Writing for the CourtSEINFELD; MORGAN, P.J., and ARMSTRONG
Citation91 Wn.App. 640,959 P.2d 143
Parties, 158 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3137 WASHINGTON PUBLIC EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, Appellant, v. WASHINGTON PERSONNEL RESOURCES BOARD, and the Office of Financial Management, Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. 21384-2-II
Decision Date10 July 1998

Page 640

91 Wn.App. 640
959 P.2d 143, 158 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3137
WASHINGTON PUBLIC EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, Appellant,
v.
WASHINGTON PERSONNEL RESOURCES BOARD, and the Office of
Financial Management, Respondents.
No. 21384-2-II.
Court of Appeals of Washington,
Division 2.
July 10, 1998.

[959 P.2d 145]

Page 643

Mark Spencer Lyon, Olympia, for Appellant.

Maureen A. Hart, Spencer Walter Daniels, Attorney Generals Office, Olympia, for Respondents.

SEINFELD, Judge.

The Washington Public Employees Association (WPEA) petitioned the superior court for a statutory or constitutional writ of certiorari. It sought review of a Personnel Resources Board (PRB) decision regarding an alleged unfair labor practice. We agree that a statutory writ is the proper means to challenge an agency's alleged misinterpretation of the substantive law made in a quasi-judicial

Page 644

proceeding when there is no other adequate remedy at law. Thus, we reverse.
FACTS

In the fall of 1990, WPEA and the Office of Financial Management (OFM) participated in four negotiation sessions regarding state employee salaries, during which WPEA proposed an increase in "standby pay" for employees on a standby status. 1 After OFM advised WPEA that the Governor's legislative budget proposal would not include the requested increase, WPEA proposed it to the PRB. 2 In January 1991, the PRB approved the increase by voting to amend WAC 356-15-080(3). 3 The Legislature subsequently adopted a budget that did not provide funds for a standby pay increase and, in June 1991, OFM advised the Department of Personnel that it had disapproved of the

Page 645

amended standby pay rates because of lack of available funds and legislative support.

The WPEA then filed an unfair labor practice charge against OFM for unilaterally disapproving the standby pay increase without giving the WPEA advance notice and without providing WPEA the opportunity to meet and confer. Pursuant to WAC 356-42-083, the Department of Personnel issued an unfair labor practice complaint against OFM in October 1994.

The PRB conducted a hearing on the complaint at which witnesses provided sworn testimony and were subject to cross-examination. The PRB also received stipulated facts and exhibits. Following the hearing, the PRB dismissed the unfair labor practice complaint,[959 P.2d 146] concluding that the OFM director had not violated the relevant statutes.

The WPEA then petitioned the Thurston County Superior Court for statutory or constitutional certiorari, alleging that the PRB's conclusions were erroneous as a matter of law and arbitrary and capricious in its holding. The trial court denied the petition, stating:

In determining whether other requirements of either a statutory writ or a constitutional writ of certiorari are met, the court must find allegations of more than an error of law. Here, the fundamental issue is one of whether the Personnel Resources Board erred, as a matter of law, in determining that no bargaining was needed. Allegations of error in interpreting the law are very different than allegations that an agency acts illegally. The present allegations are not sufficient to invoke the court's review by writ of certiorari even though Petitioners will be without further remedies.

The WPEA appeals.

DISCUSSION

I. STATUTORY WRIT OF REVIEW

RCW 7.16.040 requires a writ of review under the following circumstances:

Page 646

A writ of review shall be granted by any court, except a municipal or district court, when an inferior tribunal, board or officer, exercising judicial functions, has exceeded the jurisdiction of such tribunal, board or officer, or one acting illegally, or to correct any erroneous or void proceeding, or a proceeding not according to the course of the common law, and there is no appeal, nor in the judgment of the court, any plain, speedy and adequate remedy at law.

Thus, to obtain a writ of review, the petitioner must show (1) that an inferior tribunal (2) exercising judicial functions (3) exceeded its jurisdiction or acted illegally, and (4) there is no adequate remedy at law. Raynes v. City of Leavenworth, 118 Wash.2d 237, 244, 821 P.2d 1204 (1992) (statutory writ must be granted only when all four criteria are present) (citing Bridle Trails Comm'ty Club v. Bellevue, 45 Wash.App. 248, 250, 724 P.2d 1110 (1986)); see also Foster v. King County, 83 Wash.App. 339, 921 P.2d 552 (1996). Here, there is no dispute that the PRB is an inferior board and that the WPEA has no other adequate remedy at law. 4 But the parties do dispute whether the PRB was exercising a judicial function when it heard the unfair labor practice complaint and whether it acted "illegally."

A. Exercising a Judicial Function

Although judicial actions have no single essential attribute, the following factors are relevant in determining whether an administrative action is quasi-judicial: (1) whether a court has been charged with making the agency's decision; (2) whether the action was a type which courts historically have performed; (3) whether the action involved the application of existing law to past or present facts for the purpose of declaring or enforcing liability; and (4) whether the action resembled the ordinary business of courts as opposed to that of legislators or administrators. Raynes, 118 Wash.2d at 244-45, 821 P.2d 1204; Williams v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 97 Wash.2d 215, 218, 643 P.2d 426 (1982). Courts

Page 647

should give substantial consideration to the "functions being performed by the decision-making body," Raynes, 118 Wash.2d at 243, 821 P.2d 1204, and to whether the action of the decision-making body is easily susceptible to judicial review. Williams, 97 Wash.2d at 220, 643 P.2d 426.

Factor (1): Has the court been charged with making the agency's decision?

The WPEA contends that it could have invoked the superior court's concurrent jurisdiction to decide whether OFM had a duty under the Public Employees' Collective Bargaining Act to engage in collective bargaining with regard to a wage issue. The WPEA relies on State ex rel. Graham v. Northshore [959 P.2d 147] Sch. Dist. No. 417, 99 Wash.2d 232, 662 P.2d 38 (1983).

Graham, a declaratory judgment action brought in the name of the state auditor, challenged, inter alia, whether a "release time" provision in teacher contracts constituted a proscribed "contribution" to an education association under the unfair labor practice statute. 99 Wash.2d at 234, 662 P.2d 38. The Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) intervened, challenging the court's authority to decide the unfair labor practice aspect of the State's challenge.

The Graham court held that the trial court properly exercised its jurisdiction. 99 Wash.2d at 235, 662 P.2d 38. The Educational Employment Relations Act, like the Public Employees' Collective Bargaining Act here, contains no language directly removing superior court jurisdiction from cases involving unfair labor practices. Graham, 99 Wash.2d at 240, 662 P.2d 38. The Graham court stated:

It is a quantum leap in logic, however, to jump from the fact that PERC is empowered to prevent unfair labor practices to the conclusion that PERC is the exclusive decider of public labor law questions.

The declaration of legal rights and interpretation of legal questions is the province of the courts and not of administrative agencies. PERC's arguments amount to no less than a suggestion that the Legislature has by implication carved out

Page 648

an area of law and assigned a traditional judicial function to an administrative body.

99 Wash.2d at 240, 662 P.2d 38.

OFM seeks to distinguish Graham on the basis that the state auditor, not an employer, employee, or labor organization as contemplated by RCW 41.56, brought the complaint. But we find no meaningful difference in that distinction.

Factor (2): Have courts historically performed the action?

The WPEA persuasively argues that the courts have historically enforced public sector collective bargaining laws. See Local Union No. 77, Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers v. Public Util. Dist. No. 1, 40 Wash.App. 61, 63, 696 P.2d 1264 (1985) (trial court improperly dismissed union's action to enforce arbitration provisions of collective bargaining agreement); Texas & New Orleans Ry. Co. v. Brotherhood of Railway & S.S. Clerks, 281 U.S. 548, 50 S.Ct. 427, 74 L.Ed. 1034 (1930) (action to enforce rights under Railway Labor Act may be brought in federal court).

Factor (3): Does the action involve applying existing law to the facts to determine liability?

To determine liability, the PRB applied existing law to the facts. It is an unfair labor practice for a public employer to refuse to engage in collective bargaining, RCW 41.56.140, and State civil service employees' right to collective bargaining includes a specific right to bargain for wages. Ortblad v. State (Ortblad I), 85 Wash.2d 109, 530 P.2d 635 (1975); RCW 41.56.030(4). The director of OFM is the appropriate "public employer" for purposes of wage bargaining, Ortblad I, 85 Wash.2d at 116, 530 P.2d 635, and OFM's duty to negotiate includes a duty to meet at "reasonable times," the determination of which is a question of fact. Ortblad v. State (Ortblad II), 88 Wash.2d 380, 384, 561 P.2d 201 (1977).

To determine if OFM violated the Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act the PRB had to apply the above existing law to the present facts.

Factor (4) Does the action resemble the ordinary business of the courts?

In addition, the PRB hearing resembled the ordinary business of courts rather than that of legislators or

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administrators. In considering this factor, the Williams court stated:

While strict adherence to judicial process is not required to make an administrative tribunal's decision "quasi-judicial", correspondingly, the form in which the

administrative body assembles itself for a hearing and the fact that it takes testimony and resolves disputed questions of fact and enters findings and conclusions,...

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20 practice notes
  • State v. Farr-Lenzini, FARR-LENZIN
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • January 8, 1999
    ...135 Wash.2d 326, 340, 957 P.2d 655 (1998); Washington Pub. Employees Assoc. v. Washington Personnel Resources Bd., 91 Wash.App. 640, 652, 959 P.2d 143 (1998). We read related statutes in relation with each other to harmonize and give effect to each provision. Fray v. Spokane County, 134 Was......
  • Fed. Way Sch. Dist. No. 210 v. Vinson, No. 84243–4.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • September 29, 2011
    ...constitutional writ. ¶ 27 “ ‘[I]llegality’ is a ‘nebulous term.’ ” Wash. Pub. Emps. Ass'n v. Wash. Pers. Res. Bd., 91 Wash.App. 640, 652, 959 P.2d 143 (1998) (quoting King County v. Wash. State Bd. of Tax Appeals, 28 Wash.App. 230, 242, 622 P.2d 898 (1981)). In the constitutional certiorari......
  • CITY of SEATTLE v. The Honorable George W. HOLIFIELD, No. 83277-3.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • October 14, 2010
    ...But both followed closely on the heels of Washington Public Employees Ass'n v. Washington Personnel Resources Board, 91 Wash.App. 640, 959 P.2d 143 (1998) ( WPEA) (Div. Two). ¶ 23 The WPEA court held statutory writs of review can lie to remedy errors of law. It found the phrase “acting ille......
  • Kenneth v. Veterinary Bd. Of Governors, No. 64904-3-I.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • May 17, 2010
    ...to invoke the court's constitutional power of review.” Wash. Pub. Employees Ass'n v. Wash. Pers. Res. Bd., 91 Wash.App. 640, 658, 959 P.2d 143 (1998). ¶ 10 A constitutional writ “will not issue if another avenue of review, such as a statutory writ or direct appeal, is available,” “unless th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • State v. Farr-Lenzini, FARR-LENZIN
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • January 8, 1999
    ...135 Wash.2d 326, 340, 957 P.2d 655 (1998); Washington Pub. Employees Assoc. v. Washington Personnel Resources Bd., 91 Wash.App. 640, 652, 959 P.2d 143 (1998). We read related statutes in relation with each other to harmonize and give effect to each provision. Fray v. Spokane County, 134 Was......
  • Fed. Way Sch. Dist. No. 210 v. Vinson, No. 84243–4.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • September 29, 2011
    ...constitutional writ. ¶ 27 “ ‘[I]llegality’ is a ‘nebulous term.’ ” Wash. Pub. Emps. Ass'n v. Wash. Pers. Res. Bd., 91 Wash.App. 640, 652, 959 P.2d 143 (1998) (quoting King County v. Wash. State Bd. of Tax Appeals, 28 Wash.App. 230, 242, 622 P.2d 898 (1981)). In the constitutional certiorari......
  • CITY of SEATTLE v. The Honorable George W. HOLIFIELD, No. 83277-3.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • October 14, 2010
    ...But both followed closely on the heels of Washington Public Employees Ass'n v. Washington Personnel Resources Board, 91 Wash.App. 640, 959 P.2d 143 (1998) ( WPEA) (Div. Two). ¶ 23 The WPEA court held statutory writs of review can lie to remedy errors of law. It found the phrase “acting ille......
  • Kenneth v. Veterinary Bd. Of Governors, No. 64904-3-I.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • May 17, 2010
    ...to invoke the court's constitutional power of review.” Wash. Pub. Employees Ass'n v. Wash. Pers. Res. Bd., 91 Wash.App. 640, 658, 959 P.2d 143 (1998). ¶ 10 A constitutional writ “will not issue if another avenue of review, such as a statutory writ or direct appeal, is available,” “unless th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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