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University of Minnesota v. Woolley

April 22, 2003

THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT J. WOOLLEY, M.D., RELATOR.



Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Wright, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

An arbitration decision addressing a challenge to the discharge of a public employee that was made pursuant to a written arbitration agreement governed by the Uniform Arbitration Act, Minn. Stat. §§á572.08-.30 (2000), is not a quasi-judicial decision subject to certiorari review.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Huspeni, Judge*fn1

Writ of certiorari discharged

The University of Minnesota

OPINION

By writ of certiorari, relator seeks review of an arbitration decision affirming the termination of his employment pursuant to the University of Minnesota's grievance procedure. We discharge the writ of certiorari on the ground that although relator could have obtained certiorari review of the Phase III administrative decision, judicial review of a Phase IV arbitration decision is available only from the district court pursuant to the Uniform Arbitration Act, Minn. Stat. §§á572.08-.30 (2000).

FACTS

Relator Robert J. Woolley, M.D., was employed as a physician at Boynton Health Service, a unit of respondent University of Minnesota (university). On September 28, 2001, the director of Boynton Health Service terminated relator's employment for just cause on the ground that relator sexually harassed one of the health service employees, violating the university's sexual harassment policy.

Relator challenged his termination by filing a grievance under the University of Minnesota Grievance Policy. Under "Phase I" of this policy, a grievance officer arranges an informal meeting between the grievant and the administrator responsible for the challenged decision. This meeting did not resolve the issue, so the proceeding then moved to "Phase II," in which the grievance officer sets a meeting between relator and the supervisor of the administrator imposing discipline. The Phase II meeting also failed to resolve the issue. Relator then sought further review through a "Phase III" hearing before a three-person panel. After the hearing, the Phase III panel sustained the termination.

After signing a written agreement to arbitrate, relator then entered into a "Phase IV" arbitration proceeding. A neutral arbitrator issued an award denying relator's grievance on July 15, 2002, and the other two members of the panel concurred with the arbitrator's award on July 16, 2002.

Relator challenges the merits of the arbitrators' decision through certiorari. The university, in its statement of the case, challenged this court's jurisdiction to review the arbitration award. This court then issued an order questioning jurisdiction, requesting memoranda from both parties. We then issued a preliminary ruling that the university had not established that this court lacked certiorari jurisdiction, but deferred a final ruling until the appeal was decided on the merits, in view of the limited record before the court. The parties were ordered to address the jurisdictional issue further in their briefs.

ISSUE

Does the court of appeals have subject-matter jurisdiction to consider a certiorari challenge to an arbitration decision upholding relator's discharge from his employment at the university pursuant to the university's grievance procedure?

ANALYSIS

Whether the court of appeals has subject-matter jurisdiction over a certiorari appeal is a question of law reviewed de novo. Shaw v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Minn., 594 N.W.2d 187, 190 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. July 28, 1999).

[I]n the absence of an adequate method of review or legal remedy, judicial review of the quasi-judicial decisions of administrative bodies, if available, must be invoked by writ of certiorari. Dietz v. Dodge County, 487 N.W.2d 237, 239 (Minn. 1992).

Because no statute specifically permits an appeal from an administrative decision to terminate the employment of a university employee, "certiorari pursuant to Minn. Stat. ยงรก606.01 (1998) is the only method available for review of a university ...


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