Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri. The Honorable Robert M. Schieber, Judge.
Gwen G. Caranchini, Appellant, Pro se, Kansas City, MO.
Chris Koster, Attorney General, Edwin R. Frownfelter, Assistant Attorney General, Kansas City, MO, for Respondent.
Before Division Three: Karen King Mitchell, Presiding Judge, and Thomas H. Newton and Gary D. Witt, Judges. Thomas H. Newton and Gary D. Witt, Judges, concur.
Karen King Mitchell, Presiding Judge
Following her disbarment, Gwendolyn Caranchini was provided the opportunity for reinstatement of her license to practice law, a condition of which was that she pass the Missouri Bar Examination. Having failed to pass the Missouri Bar Examination on multiple occasions, Caranchini filed suit against the Missouri Board of Law Examiners (Board) in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, purportedly under section 536.150 and Article V, section 18 of the Missouri Constitution, seeking both a review of the procedures used to score the essay portion of the July 2013 examination and their application to her essay answers, and a finding that she should have received a passing score on that portion of the examination. The Jackson County Circuit Court dismissed Caranchini's suit on the ground that Missouri law does not provide for judicial review of bar examination scores. Finding no error, we affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
Caranchini was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1978 and practiced for nearly 20 years before being disbarred. She described her practice as involving defense of error and omission insurance claims for five years and employment litigation for the remainder of the period of her licensure. Caranchini was disbarred in 1997 as a result of sanction orders entered in four cases from 1989 to 1992. She has continued to represent clients before tribunals in which no Missouri Bar license is required.
Attempting to regain entry to the Bar, Caranchini took and failed the bar examination on four occasions from 2011 to 2013. Her failure was due primarily to low scores on the essay portion of the exam.
Caranchini filed a petition in the Jackson County Circuit Court, captioned as a " PETITION FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW, DECLARATORY JUDGMENT AND/OR MANDAMUS UNDER THE MISSOURI
ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE ACT (536.150 R.S.MO) . . . ." Although the caption and the opening paragraph of the petition purported to rely on section 536.150, the body of the petition cited to Article V, section 18 of the Missouri Constitution, claiming that it gave Caranchini the right to judicial review of the Board's scoring of her bar examination answers. She claimed that, in scoring her examination, the Board acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and unreasonably, and abused its discretion. She asked that the trial court re-score her examination.
In its Judgment and Order of Dismissal, the circuit court noted Caranchini's position that, at law, there exists no method or procedure for review of bar examination results. The court agreed that, as written, Missouri law does not provide for judicial review of bar examination scores. Noting that it was bound by the law as written, the court dismissed Caranchini's petition without prejudice. Caranchini appeals.
The standard of review for the grant of a motion to dismiss is de novo. Lynch v. Lynch, 260 S.W.3d 834, 836 (Mo. banc 2008). In her point on appeal, Caranchini argues that the trial court erred in dismissing her petition because the Missouri Constitution requires that she have the opportunity for judicial review of decisions related to passage of the bar examination. She appears to claim that the Board acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and unreasonably, and that it abused its discretion, in both developing its methodology for scoring examination essays and applying that methodology to the scoring of her essays, as well as in refusing to provide review and re-scoring of her examination.
Caranchini argues that the trial court erred in dismissing her petition because Article V, section 18 provides her a right to judicial review of both the Board's methodology of scoring bar examinations and the Board's application of that methodology to the scoring of her examination. Article V, section 18 provides:
All final decisions, findings, rules and orders on any administrative officer or body existing under the constitution or
by law, which are judicial or quasi-judicial and affect private rights, shall be subject to direct review by the courts as provided by law; and such review shall include the determination whether the same are authorized by law, and in cases in which a hearing is required by law, whether the same are supported by competent and substantial evidence upon the whole record. Unless otherwise provided by law, administrative decisions, findings, rules and orders subject to review under this section or which are otherwise subject to direct judicial review, shall be reviewed in such manner and by such court as the supreme court by rule shall direct and the court so designated shall, in addition to its other jurisdiction, have jurisdiction to hear and determine any such review proceeding.
Caranchini provides no explanation as to how a claim challenging the Board's method of scoring examinations, generally, or the scoring of her answers, specifically, falls within the purview of this constitutional provision. Nevertheless, we review her claim of a right to judicial ...