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Impey v. Missouri Ethics Comm'n

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

June 24, 2014

JOHN T. IMPEY, Appellant,
v.
MISSOURI ETHICS COMMISSION, et al., Respondents

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COLE COUNTY. The Honorable Jon E. Beetem, Circuit Judge.

OPINION

Zel M. Fischer, Judge.

John Impey appeals the circuit court's dismissal of his petition for review of a decision by the Missouri Ethics Commission (" MEC" ). Impey alleges that the circuit court erroneously determined that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Impey argues that § 105.961, RSMo 2000,[1] violates article V, section 18 of the Missouri Constitution

Page 43

because it provides for review by the Administrative Hearing Commission (" AHC" ) before seeking judicial review of the MEC's determination. This Court holds that § 105.961 does not violate the Missouri Constitution and that Impey failed to exhaust all administrative remedies. The judgment is affirmed.

Factual and Procedural Background

In August 2011, John Impey prepared and circulated, by hand and by mail, a number of pamphlets voicing his opposition to a ballot measure in Houston County. Shortly thereafter, the MEC received a complaint against Impey, alleging that Impey had violated the law by failing to place " Paid for by John Impey" on the pamphlets. Pursuant to § 105.961, the MEC assigned the complaint to an investigator, who investigated the complaint and filed a report. Based on this report, the MEC found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Impey had violated the law, and the MEC scheduled a probable cause hearing.

Following the probable cause hearing, the MEC made a determination that probable cause existed to believe that Impey had violated § 130.031.8[2] in circulating his pamphlets. Upon this determination, the MEC issued findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order. The first sentence of the MEC's findings stated, " This is a final decision and order of the Missouri Ethics Commission ...." The order contained two paragraphs. The first stated that the MEC found probable cause that Impey violated the law. The second stated, " The Missouri Ethics Commission orders a fee be imposed against Respondent Impey in the amount of $100 ...." Along with the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and the order, the MEC sent a notice to Impey stating:

Pursuant to Section 105.961 RSMo, this action of the Missouri Ethics Commission may be appealed to the Administrative Hearing Commission. Such appeal shall be filed no later than fourteen days following receipt of actual notice of the commission's actions.

Rather than file his appeal with the AHC, Impey filed a petition for review in the circuit court. The MEC filed a motion to dismiss Impey's petition, alleging that Impey failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Impey responded by alleging that the procedures outlined in § 105.961 were constitutionally invalid under article V, section 18 of the Missouri Constitution, which provides for direct judicial review of final administrative decisions. The circuit court granted the MEC's motion to dismiss, finding that Impey was not aggrieved by the MEC's probable cause determination and ruling that, to the extent Impey was entitled to any review, he had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by failing to seek review by the AHC.

Impey appealed the circuit court's judgment to this Court, arguing that § 105.961 violates article V, section 18 of the Missouri Constitution.[3]

Page 44

This Court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over cases involving the validity of a statute. Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 3.

Standard of Review

Whether a statute is constitutional is an issue of law that this Court reviews de novo. State v. Honeycutt, 421 S.W.3d 410, 414 (Mo. banc 2013). " Statutes are presumed constitutional and will be found unconstitutional only if they clearly contravene a constitutional provision." Id. " The person challenging the validity of the statute has the burden of proving the ...


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