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Unbank Co., LLP v. Merwin Drug Company

April 06, 2004

UNBANK CO., LLP, APPELLANT,
v.
MERWIN DRUG COMPANY, INC., RESPONDENT



Hennepin County District Court File No. MC 03-002447

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Willis, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

A Minnesota state administrative agency must be joined in a declaratory judgment action interpreting the agency's licensing power and affecting licensing determinations subject to the agency's authority.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge

Affirmed as modified

OPINION

In this declaratory judgment action, a currency-exchange licensee seeks a declaration construing a distance limitation in the licensing requirements imposed by Minn. Stat. § 53A.02, subd. 2 (2002), and an injunction restraining another currency-exchange licensee from operating within one-half mile. Because the statute at issue defines the licensing authority of the commissioner of commerce and the commissioner is not a party to this action, we affirm the district court's dismissal as modified.

FACTS

Unbank Co., a limited liability partnership, has operated a currency exchange at 913 West Broadway in Minneapolis since 1984. Merwin Drug Co., Inc., obtained a currency exchange license for its location at 700 West Broadway in 1990. Merwin failed to renew its license, and it expired on December 31, 1991. In 1992 the Minnesota legislature amended Minn. Stat. § 53A.02 (1990) to provide that the commissioner of commerce may not issue or renew a currency-exchange license to a currency exchange located within one-half mile of an existing currency exchange. 1992 Minn. Laws ch. 504, §§ 2, 9.

In April 2002, Merwin stipulated to entry of a consent order that prohibited it from operating its currency exchange until it became properly licensed. Several months later, Merwin submitted an application to the department of commerce, and the commissioner issued Merwin a currency-exchange license.

Unbank brought this declaratory judgment action against Merwin in January 2003, seeking a declaration that "the issuance of a currency exchange license to Merwin for its West Broadway location is prohibited" and also seeking an injunction restraining Merwin from operating a currency exchange at its West Broadway location. Unbank notified the commerce commissioner of the lawsuit but did not sue the commissioner or join the commissioner as a party. Only Merwin was named as a defendant.

Merwin moved to dismiss the complaint. The district court concluded that Unbank's complaint had not established a justiciable controversy between Unbank and Merwin, that Unbank lacked standing to obtain a declaratory judgment, and that the court could not issue a declaratory judgment affecting Merwin's licensing status in an action in which the commissioner was not a party. The district court dismissed the declaratory action with prejudice, and this appeal followed.

ISSUE

May the district court issue a declaratory judgment determining a currency-exchange licensing controversy under Minn. Stat. ยง 53A.02 (2002) without the ...


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