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Foss v. Department of Corrections

filed: May 17, 1996.

RONALD C. FOSS; RICHARD E. STREETER; WILFRED O. PARSINEN; AND DAREN VOM STEEG, RESPONDENTS/CROSS-APPELLANTS,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, APPELLANT/CROSS-RESPONDENT.



Superior Court of Clallam County. Superior Court Docket No. 94-2-00709-5. Date Filed In Superior Court: September 30, 1994. Superior Court Judge Signing: Kenneth Williams.

Written By: Bridgewater, J., Concurred IN By: Seinfeld, CJ, Houghton, Acj.

Author: Bridgewater

BRIDGEWATER, J. -- The Department of Corrections (DOC) appeals a Clallam County Superior Court order granting summary judgment for four teachers denied access to the Clallam Bay Corrections Center. The teachers cross-appeal, contending the superior court erred because it failed to properly consider First Amendment principles when granting them summary judgment. Because the teachers have no cognizable claim against the DOC, we reverse and dismiss with prejudice all of the teachers' claims.

The DOC contracted with Peninsula College wherein the college provided the Clallam Bay Corrections Center with teachers. Under the DOC/College contract, the prison superintendent could pre-review teaching candidates for the upcoming year. Under the College/Faculty Association contract, denial of access to the prison was sufficient cause for discharge. Four non-tenured teachers who taught at the correctional facility were denied access to the prison by the prison's superintendent because the teachers contested the college's legal right to change "job descriptions and conditions" in their renewal contracts. The college notified the teachers that, because their access to the prison was denied, their contracts would not be renewed. The teachers filed a petition for review in superior court seeking to regain access to the prison, naming the DOC as a party, not the college, and alleging the DOC acted unconstitutionally, outside its authority, and arbitrarily and capriciously. The superior court, determining that the DOC had violated contractual and constitutional rights, granted summary judgment for the teachers.

Courts traditionally respond to the unique problems of penal environments by invoking a policy of judicial restraint. This policy is designed to give prison administrators wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547, 99 S. Ct. 1861, 60 L. Ed. 2d 447 (1979).

There are three potential avenues of appeal from the decision of an administrative agency. First, a specific statute may authorize appeal. . . . Second, any party may obtain review by a statutory writ of certiorari if the agency is "exercising judicial functions." RCW 7.16.040. Finally, the courts have inherent constitutional power to review "illegal or manifestly arbitrary and capricious action violative of fundamental rights". State ex rel. DuPont-Fort Lewis Sch. Dist. 7 v. Bruno, 62 Wash. 2d 790, 794, 384 P.2d 608 (1963).

Pierce County Sheriff v. Civil Serv. Comm'n, 98 Wash. 2d 690, 693, 658 P.2d 648 (1983).

The DOC contends the superior court had no subject matter jurisdiction to consider the teachers' petition for review. The DOC argues that the teachers had no statutory authority for appealing the DOC's decision, and failed to plead an illegal or manifestly arbitrary and capricious action violative of fundamental rights.

A dismissal for failure to state a claim under CR 12(b)(6) is appropriate only if "'it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts, consistent with the complaint, which would entitle the plaintiff to relief.'" Haberman v. WPPSS, 109 Wash. 2d 107, 120, 744 P.2d 1032, 750 P.2d 254 (1987) (quoting Bowman v. John Doe, 104 Wash. 2d 181, 183, 704 P.2d 140 (1985) (quoting Orwick v. Seattle, 103 Wash. 2d 249, 254, 692 P.2d 793 (1984))).

Bravo v. Dolsen Companies, 125 Wash. 2d 745, 750, 888 P.2d 147 (1995).

I

A

The teachers had no statutory authority under the Washington Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to appeal the DOC's decision.

The provisions of the APA do not apply to "the department of corrections . . . with respect to persons who are in their custody or are subject to the jurisdiction of those agencies." RCW 34.05.030(1)(c). We hold that a teacher entering a correctional facility to perform services is subject to the jurisdiction of the DOC because teachers can affect order and discipline within an institutional prison. Thus, a DOC decision denying a teacher access to a correctional facility is not subject to review under the APA.

B

Even were the decision not exempt from the provisions of the APA, the teachers in this case do not have standing under the APA to challenge the ...


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