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Elk Horn Ranch, Inc. v. Board of County Commissioners of Crook County

April 22, 2010

ELK HORN RANCH, INC., APPELLANT (PETITIONER),
v.
THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF CROOK COUNTY, WYOMING, APPELLEE (RESPONDENT), AND CRAGO RANCH TRUST, APPELLEE/INTERVENOR (APPLICANT).



Appeal from the District Court of Crook County The Honorable John R. Perry, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burke, Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] Elk Horn Ranch, Inc., appeals the district court's sua sponte dismissal of its petition for review of a decision by the Crook County Board of Commissioners. Because the district court did not follow the procedures required when dismissing a case sua sponte, we will reverse and remand.

ISSUE

[¶2] The single dispositive issue is whether the district court erred in dismissing the petition for review.

FACTS

[¶3] In November of 2003, the Crago Ranch Trust filed an application with the Board of Commissioners of Crook County for a private road across property owned by Elk Horn Ranch. The Board established the road and awarded damages. Elk Horn Ranch appealed that decision to the district court, and then to this Court. We affirmed the decision establishing the road, but reversed the decision on damages. Elk Horn Ranch, Inc. v. Board of County Comm'rs of Crook County, 2007 WY 158, 168 P.3d 845 (Wyo. 2007). In that opinion, we addressed the propriety of naming the Board as respondent:

Under the circumstances of the instant case, we hold that the Board acted principally as an adjudicatory body and probably should not have filled the role it has thus far played in these proceedings in the district court and in this Court. . We do not consider this a circumstance that deprives this Court of its jurisdiction to resolve this appeal and so we proceed to respond to the issues raised by [Elk Horn Ranch], cautioning that both the district court and similarly situated parties need to be more attentive to the concerns we expressed above.

Id., ¶¶ 9, 10, 168 P.3d at 850.

[¶4] After remand, the Board decided on a different calculation of damages. Elk Horn Ranch once again appealed to the district court, and once again named the Board as respondent. Of its own accord, the district court issued an order dismissing the petition for review, with this explanation:

As the parties are aware, this is the second occasion upon which this matter has come before the district court. The previous case was appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court. . There, the Court determined that the Board of Commissioners was not a proper party because the Board was not acting in the defense of its regulatory powers. . The Court further held that it was not deprived of jurisdiction to resolve the appeal, and did so. However, the Wyoming Supreme Court "caution[ed] that both the district court and similarly situated parties need to be more attentive to" this issue.

In reviewing the Petition, this court finds that, once again, the Board of Commissioners was acting principally as an adjudicatory body in making its determination of the amount of damages that should be paid to Petitioner for the private road established across Elk Horn Ranch, Inc. property. Therefore, this court finds that the Board of Commissioners is not a proper party to the administrative review, and the Petition should be dismissed.

Elk Horn Ranch appeals the district ...


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