Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division
from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri The Honorable
Patricia S. Joyce, Judge
Cynthia L. Martin, P.J., James Edward Welsh, and Karen King
Edward Welsh, Judge.
Shaw appeals the circuit court's judgment affirming the
Administrative Hearing Commission's dismissal of her
application for attorney's fees as the prevailing party
in an earlier proceeding before the Commission. We affirm.
6, 2012, Shaw was terminated from her position as a
Registered Senior Nurse at the St. Louis Psychiatric
Rehabilitation Center by Felix Vincenz, Ph.D. (the Chief
Operating Officer and "Appointing Authority"). As
an employee of Missouri's Department of Mental Health,
Shaw appealed to the Administrative Hearing Commission, and
the matter was assigned Case No. 12-1408
PER. On February 21, 2014, the Commission
entered its decision in favor of Shaw and ordered Vincenz to
reinstate Shaw to her former position. As neither party
sought judicial review, the decision became final thirty days
later by operation of law.
April 3, 2014, having received no notice of appeal in the
termination case, the Commission commenced a separate action,
Case No. 14-0409 PBP, on the issue of back pay. The
Commission set a hearing date to determine Shaw's date of
reinstatement and calculation of her back pay. Two years
later, on April 15, 2016, the Commission issued its decision
in that case. Shaw appealed the decision to the Circuit Court
of the City of St. Louis, which affirmed in part and reversed
in part. Shaw's appeal to the Eastern District of this
Court is still pending.
meantime, on January 8, 2015, nearly a year after Shaw
prevailed in Case No. 12-1408 PER (the termination case), she
filed an application to recover her attorney's fees
pursuant to section 536.087. The Commission assigned
Shaw's application Case No. 15-0019 AF. Dr.
Vincenz filed a motion to dismiss Shaw's fee application
April 21, 2015, the Commission dismissed Shaw's
application because it was filed past the thirty-day deadline
in section 536.087.3. The Commission explained that:
[O]nce this Commission has determined that an employee will
be reinstated and the parties have let the time for appeal
lapse, that determination becomes the final disposition
of an agency proceeding, and the application for attorney
fees and expenses must be filed within thirty days in
accordance with § 536.087.3.
appealed the dismissal of her application to the Cole County
Circuit Court, and that court affirmed. Shaw now appeals that
decision to this Court.
appeal of a circuit court's judgment reviewing an agency
decision, this Court "does not review the circuit
court's decision, but rather the agency decision, that
is, the [Commission's] findings and conclusions
[.]" Mo. Real Estate Appraisers Comm'n
v. Funk, 492 S.W.3d 586, 592 (Mo. banc 2016). The
grounds upon which a reviewing court may reverse an
administrative decision denying attorney's fees are set
forth in section 536.087.7. It provides, in pertinent part:
The court may modify, reverse or reverse and remand the
determination of fees and other expenses if the court finds
that the award or failure to make an award of fees and other
expenses . . . was arbitrary and capricious, was
unreasonable, was unsupported by competent and substantial
evidence, or was made contrary to law or in excess of the
court's or agency's jurisdiction.
§ 536.087.7 (emphasis added). We defer to the
Commission's findings of fact, but we review questions of
law de novo. Snider v. Mo. Highways and Transp.
Comm'n, 356 S.W.3d 320, 323 (Mo. App. 2011). The
resolution of this appeal involves the interpretation and
application of the relevant statutes, which are issues of