State ex rel. Miller v. Reed

In State ex rel. Miller v. Reed, 203 W. Va. 673, 510 S.E.2d 507 (1998), the Commissioner contended that because neither Shedd nor Burrough was properly before the Circuit Courts of Preston and Hancock Counties, respectively, as administrative appeals, neither circuit court had jurisdiction or venue on the address issue pursuant to W. Va. Code 53-1-2. The Court agreed stating "both actions were more in the nature of a petition for a writ of mandamus rather than a petition for appeal from a final order in an administrative hearing." Reed, 203 W. Va. at 684, 510 S.E.2d at 518. The Court continued: West Virginia Code 53-1-2 (1994) provides that "jurisdiction of writs of mandamus and prohibition . . . shall be in the circuit court of the county in which the record or proceeding is to which the writ relates." In both cases, the Division's records relating to drivers' licenses are maintained at the State Capitol in Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia. There is no question that, in regard to these two cases, jurisdiction for a writ of mandamus must be brought in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. Both actions sought to compel the Division to provide Mr. Shedd and Ms. Burrough with an administrative hearing to challenge the revocation of their driver's licenses, and such records are maintained in Kanawha County. Further, because we have determined that neither Mr. Shedd's nor Ms. Burrough's actions arose under the APA, the question of venue is not controlled by the statutory provisions found in the APA, but, rather, by the provisions of West Virginia Code 14-2-2 (1995). West Virginia Code 14-2-2(a) (1) specifically provides that "any suit in which the governor, any other state officer, or a state agency is made a party defendant" shall be brought and prosecuted in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. We recognized in syllabus point five of State ex rel. West Virginia Board of Education v. Perry, 189 W. Va. 662, 434 S.E.2d 22 (1993) that "'actions wherein a state agency or official is named, whether as principal party or third-party defendant, may be brought only in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County.' Syllabus Point 2, Thomas v. Board of Education, County of McDowell, 167 W. Va. 911, 280 S.E.2d 816 (1981)." Accordingly, we hold that when an individual brings a mandamus action seeking to compel the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles to perform a statutory duty which relates to the Division's maintenance of records, and such action is not an administrative appeal pursuant to the West Virginia Administrative Procedures Act, West Virginia Code 29A-1-1 to 29A-7-4 (1998), West Virginia Code 14-2-2(a)(1) and 53-1-2 require that such action be brought in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, but such an action cannot be used to circumvent the administrative appeals procedure. (Id.)