STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. BOARD OF CURATORS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, Relator,
THE HONORABLE JOSEPH L. GREEN, Respondent.
ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN MANDAMUS
W. Draper III, Judge.
writ arises from a declaratory action concerning Sherlock
Hibbs' (hereinafter, "Decedent") last will and
testament. Believing the Board of Curators of the University
of Missouri (hereinafter, "Curators") failed to
comply with the terms of Decedent's trust, Hillsdale
College (hereinafter, "Hillsdale") filed suit in
St. Louis County, challenging Curators' administration of
the trust's funds. Curators filed a petition for a writ
of mandamus, seeking to require the circuit court to transfer
venue in the underlying action to Boone County. This Court
issued a preliminary writ of mandamus. Because this Courts
finds no venue in the underlying action regarding
Decedent's trust in St. Louis County, the preliminary
order in mandamus is made permanent. The circuit court is
directed to transfer this matter to the probate division of
the circuit court in Boone County.
and Procedural History
last will and testament, Decedent bequeathed Curators, as
trustees, $5 million to be held in trust and to administer
the funds pursuant to certain terms and conditions.
Decedent's bequest established six endowments to fund
chairs and distinguished professorships at the University of
Missouri-Columbia College of Business and Public
Administration. Each endowment was to be held in a separate
trust fund. Further, each appointee to a chair or
professorship was required to be "a dedicated and
articulate disciple of the Ludwig von Mises (Austrian) School
of Economics." Decedent's terms provided that should
a chair or distinguished professorship remain vacant for five
consecutive years, Curators should distribute the balance of
the trust funds to Hillsdale, a college located in Michigan.
Curators were required to certify appointments to the chairs
and distinguished professorships and inform Hillsdale in
writing that the appointments met the trust requirements.
Decedent died in 2002, and, according to the terms of his
will, Curators were provided money, in trust, to endow the
chairs and professorships as Decedent directed.
2017, Hillsdale filed a declaratory judgment action in St.
Louis County, challenging Curators' administration of
Decedent's trust funds. Hillsdale admitted it is a
nonresident because it is located in Michigan. Hillsdale
asserted venue was proper in St. Louis County because
Curators have a campus located there. Curators promptly filed
a motion to change venue. The circuit court overruled
Curators' motion. Curators then sought writ relief.
Hillsdale filed its first amended petition, prior to the
court of appeals issuing a ruling. Curators timely filed
another motion challenging venue. The court of appeals denied
the writ petition for change of venue, which was directed at
Hillsdale's original petition. Curators sought writ
relief from this Court. This Court overruled Curators'
writ petition as moot.
than a month after this Court overruled Curators' writ
petition as moot, Hillsdale filed its second amended
petition. In the second amended petition, Hillsdale
characterized its allegations against Curators as breach of
contract claims for purposes of establishing venue in St.
Louis County. Curators again timely challenged venue as
improper. The circuit court overruled Curators' motion.
Curators now seek writ relief.
Court has jurisdiction to issue original remedial writs. Mo.
Const. art. V, sec. 4. A writ of mandamus may issue upon
proof of a "clear, unequivocal specific right to a thing
claimed." U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affairs v.
Boresi, 396 S.W.3d 356, 359 (Mo. banc 2013) (quoting
Furlong Cos. v. City of Kan. City, 189 S.W.3d 157,
165-66 (Mo. banc 2000)). Mandamus will lie only when there is
a clear, unequivocal, specific right to be enforced, and it
is appropriate to compel the performance of a ministerial
act. State ex rel. Valentine v. Orr, 366 S.W.3d 534,
538 (Mo. banc 2012).
Hillsdale characterizes its petition as litigating
contractual rights, Curators disagree and claim the petition
is a judicial proceeding involving trust administration.
Curators allege matters involving trust administration are
governed by a specific venue statute. See section
456.2-204(1), RSMo 2016. Accordingly, Curators believe venue is
proper only in Boone County.
is determined by statute. State ex rel. Heartland Title
Servs., Inc. v. Harrell, 500 S.W.3d 239, 241 (Mo. banc
2016). "When a statutory right is at issue, a court must
analyze the statute or statutes under which the relator
claims the right." State ex rel. Hodges v.
Asel, 460 S.W.3d 926, 927 (Mo. banc 2015).
brought suit against Curators invoking the general venue
statues. Hillsdale sought to establish St. Louis County as
the appropriate venue pursuant to section 508.010.2(1) or in
the alternative, section 508.010.2(4). Hillsdale argues
either Curators should be able to be sued in any county in
which they can be found for purposes of section 508.010.2(1)
or, asserting Curators are equivalent to Missouri
nonresidents, in any county pursuant to section 508.010.2(4).
of these general venue provisions is applicable in this case
because Curators' characterization of the petition as
being a matter of trust administration is correct. "A
judicial proceeding involving a trust may relate to any
matter involving the trust's administration, including a
request for instructions and an action to declare
rights." Section 456.2-201.3, RSMo Supp. 2004. Hillsdale