In re Mullestein

In In re Mullestein, 148 Vt. 170, 531 A.2d 890 (1987), Linda Mullestein (the applicant) applied for an architect's license from the Vermont Board of Registration of Architects' (Vermont Board). As a prerequisite to licensure, the Vermont Board required, among other things, a passing grade on the national standardized design exam. The applicant took the design exam in June 1982. Pursuant to the Vermont Board's procedures, exams were graded first by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and subsequently graded independently by the Vermont Board. If the two grade results differed, the exam was sent back to the National Board for regrading. In Mullestein's case, the two boards reached different results: the National Board determined that she had passed, the Vermont Board determined she had failed. Following a regrading, the National Board agreed with the result reached by the Vermont Board. On December 27, 1982, 194 days after the applicant had taken the exam, the Vermont Board informed her that she had failed the exam. On appeal, the applicant pointed out that, under the architect licensing statute, 26 V.S.A. 201(b), the Vermont Board was required to notify her of the results of the exam within sixty days of the date she had taken it. See Mullestein, 148 Vt. at 173, 531 A.2d at 892 ("'The applicant shall, in order to become registered, pass written examinations under a syllabus prepared by the board . . . . Notification of the results . . . shall be mailed to each candidate within sixty days thereafter.'") (quoting 26 V.S.A. 201(b)). She argued that the sixty-day time limit was mandatory, and that, after sixty days had expired, the Vermont Board had no authority to take any action with regard to her exam, and thus was required to accept the initial passing grade. The Court disagreed, holding that the language of the architect licensing statute provided no consequence for failure to meet the statutory time limit. As the Court stated, "its language relates to procedure: it 'directs the manner of doing a thing, and is not of the essence of the authority for doing it.'" Id. at 174, 531 A.2d at 892-93 (quoting Warner, 11 Vt. at 394). Therefore, the Court held that the language of 26 V.S.A. 201(b) was directory, not mandatory, and upheld the Vermont Board's decision.