Indiana Family & Social Servs. Admin. v. Meyer, No. 69A01-0807-CV-358, ___ N.E.2d ___ (Ind. Ct. App., Jan. 30, 2009)


Alice V. Meyer (“Meyer”) sought Medicaid benefits, but was penalized because of a recently-preceding property transaction. After Meyer’s death, Dianne Rynn, Trustee of the Alice V. Meyer Trust (“the Trust”), petitioned for judicial review of a final agency action by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (“the FSSA”). The FSSA moved to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss and corrected error in the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) order by adjusting the basis of a mathematical computation for penalty purposes. We affirm.

The FSSA presents the sole issue of whether the trial court was divested of jurisdiction to address the Trust’s petition for judicial review because the Trust did not timely file the agency record or seek an additional extension of time in which to do so. We restate the issue as: whether the trial court had discretion to respond to procedural error by granting a belated extension of time.

. . . .

There was substantial procedural compliance by the Trust and obvious substantive error in the ALJ decision. Indeed, both parties agreed that the ALJ decision contained error. In order for the caseworker to do his or her job properly, the error must be corrected. We cannot reverse the trial court’s correction of error, because to do so would be to condone an absurd result. Where the trial court is able to discern clear error and both parties concede error, the trial court must of necessity have discretion to address a technically untimely filing. We conclude that Indiana Code Section 4-21.5-5-13 does not speak to subject matter jurisdiction, does not mandate automatic dismissal for procedural error, and must be read to confer upon the trial court discretion in some circumstances. Just as the trial court has discretion to grant an extension of time, subject to the “good cause” requirement, the trial court has the discretion to find that a petition “subject to dismissal” should not, upon a proper showing, be dismissed.


BARNES, J., concurs in result with opinion.

MATHIAS, J., dissents with opinion.

BARNES, J., concurring.

I concur in result here because Judge Bailey and I do not see eye-to-eye on the trial court’s “discretion.” I believe the filing requirements are there for a reason as Judge Mathias points out in his dissent. Specifically, I am concerned that trial courts might be tempted to exercise “discretion” regarding untimely filings too liberally. The filing deadlines are absolute, as our supreme court has made clear. For example, “It is well settled that a reviewing court may grant a request for an extension under section 4-21.5-5-13 of AOPA only if the request is made during the initial thirty days following the filing of the petition for review or within any previously granted extension.” Wayne County Property Tax Assessment Bd. of Appeals v. United Ancient Order of Druids-Grove No. 29, 847 N.E.2d 924, 927 (Ind. 2006). However, because I believe sufficient documents were timely filed that would allow a decision to be made here, I follow the reasoning laid out in Izaak Walton League of America, Inc. v. DeKalb County Surveyor’s Office, 850 N.E.2d 957 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006), trans. denied. There, we rejected a strict, hyper-technical construction of the AOPA that would require all paper generated during an agency proceeding to be made part of the record for judicial review. Id. at 966. Instead, where all agency materials relevant to the question presented on judicial review are timely submitted, the record is sufficient. Id. at 966-67. That is what occurred here, and on this narrow basis I concur in result.

MATHIAS, J., dissenting.

I respectfully dissent. The timely and complete filing of the agency record is a condition precedent to the acquisition of jurisdiction to consider a petition for judicial review. Therefore, for the reasons expressed in Indiana State Board of Education v. Brownsburg Community School Corp., 813 N.E.2d 330 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004) and Izaak Walton League of America, Inc. v. Dekalb County Surveyor’s Office, 850 N.E.2d 957 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), trans. denied (Mathias J., dissenting), I would reverse the trial court’s denial of the FSSA’s motion to dismiss.

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