Tuesday, May 05, 2009

admin. law - appeal - date of decision v. date of mailing

Ribaudo v. DPW - Supreme Court - April 29, 2009

majority - http://origin-www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-115-2008mo.pdf
dissent - http://origin-www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/Supreme/out/J-115-08do.pdf
reversing http://www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/CWealth/out/351CD06_1-4-07.pdf

Held: A notice of adjudication that clearly advised the party of the starting and ending dates of the applicable appeal period, but did not specifically designate the date stamped on the notice as the notice’s mailing date, was held to be sufficient to trigger the start of the appeal period. Therefore, an appeal filed more than 8 months after the decision was untimely.

The statute in qeustion specified that the appeal period was to run from the date of the notice, not the date of mailing of the notice.

The court said that the "linchpin" in the case was its decision in Schmidt v. Commonwealth, 433 A2d 456 (Pa. 1981), where it "addressed whether a notice of adjudication, whose only indication of its date of mailing was a postmark, triggered the relevant appeal period. We construed the statutory language at issue in Schmidt as implying a duty on the part of the government agency to advise the taxpayer of the mailing date, and we concluded it would be “manifestly unjust” to dismiss a taxpayer’s appeal based on some internal departmental mailing date where the taxpayer was never informed of the mailing date."

The court said (and noted that appellant conceded that it "did not impose in Schmidt an absolute rule that all administrative agency notices must contain a mailing date which is specifically designated as such. Rather, Schmidt requires only that an agency’s notice of adjudication sufficiently inform the recipient of the starting date of the appeal period so that the recipient has all the information needed to timely exercise its appeal rights."

The court held that "DPW complied with Schmidt. It notified [appellant] of the starting date of the appeal period and advised appellant that if it disagreed with the findings contained in the audit report, it had “the right to ppeal by filing a written request for a hearing with [the Bureau] within 33 days of the date of this letter,” and the letter was date-stamped “MAR 31, 2004.” The combination of the letter’s content and the date-stamp was sufficient to put appellant on notice that the appeal had to be filed within 33 days of March 31, 2004 ─ “the date of this letter.” Moreover, this information comported with the relevant statute specifying that appeals must be filed within 33 days “of the date of the notice of the departmental action” rather than the date of mailing.

The court reaffirmed its approach in Schmidt, and held that "whether an agency’s notice of adjudication triggers the start of an appeal period depends on whether, consistent with the applicable statute, the notice sufficiently informs the recipient of the starting date of the appeal period so that the recipient has all the information needed to timely exercise its appeal rights. Because we find that the notice in this case was sufficient, the appeal to the Bureau was untimely."