April 21, 2017

Personal Jurisdiction of BMV Depends on Service on Attorney General

Category: Indianapolis Law Club, Settlements & Decisions | Author: | Share:

In Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles v. Watson, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (“BMV”) denied the renewal of Craig Watson’s chauffeur’s license. Following an unsuccessful administrative appeal, Watson petitioned for and the trial court granted him special driving privileges. BMV, however, refused to issue Watson’s special driving privileges, and Watson filed a motion to compel which the trial court granted.

The Attorney General of Indiana then intervened on behalf of BMV and filed a motion to correct error alleging the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction to consider Watson’s motion to compel. The trial court denied BMV’s motion to correct error and BMV appealed.

The Court of Appeals concluded that, in granting Watson’s petition for special driving privileges, the trial court engaged in judicial review of an agency decision and was required to comply with the Indiana Orders and Procedures Act (“AOPA”). See Ind. Code. §4-21.5-5-1 (establishing AOPA as the exclusive means for judicial review of an agency action).

Indiana Code section 4-21.5-5-8 describes whom a petitioner seeking judicial review must serve: …

(1) the ultimate authority issuing order;

(2) the ultimate authority for each other agency exercising administrative review of the order;

(3) the attorney general; and

(4) each party to the proceeding before an agency….

Watson did not serve the Attorney General at the time he petitioned the trial court for special driving privileges.

There was not a complete lack of service here. Watson served both BMV and the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office. Indeed, a deputy prosecutor appeared on behalf of BMV. The Court of Appeals was not satisfied:

Watson’s original action was a petition for special driving privileges. As such, a prosecuting attorney was statutorily required to appear on behalf of BMV with regard to the issuance of special driving privileges. The prosecuting attorney is not charged with defending judicial review of agency action, and once Watson decided to petition the trial court for judicial review, the Attorney General was required to be served. Because Watson did not serve the Attorney General, his service of process was ineffective and the trial court lacked jurisdiction to order BMV to issue a chauffeur’s license.

Lesson:

When challenging an agency decision, serve the AG.

Read the full March 2017 Law Club Handout or listen to the recording here.