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Collateral Attack On Administrative Agency Ruling - Intrinsic Fraud

Ex parte Washington County Students First, et al., [Ms. 2190529, June 5, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2020). The court (Hanson, J.; Thompson, P.J., and Moore, Donaldson, and Edwards, JJ., concur) issues a writ of mandamus to the Washington Circuit Court directing dismissal of an action filed by the Washington County Education Association (“WCEA”). Plaintiffs WCEA and certain affiliated individuals sought an order setting aside the Alabama Public Charter School Commission’s (“the Commission”) approval of an application by Washington County Students First (“WCSF”) for the approval of a charter school. WCSF’s petition for a writ of mandamus asserted that the action should be dismissed because the WCEA failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Ms. *5. The Plaintiffs countered that they did not seek to collaterally attack the Commission’s decision but to show that WCSF committed fraud on the Commission.

The court rejects this distinction, observing that

“‘[W]hen the law has vested a special board, commission or tribunal with authority to hear and determine matters arising in the course of its duties, its decisions on those matters are conclusive, and like the judgments of courts, cannot be collaterally attacked in another proceeding.’ City of Lubbock v. Corbin, 942 S.W.2d 14, 22 (Tex. App. 1996). The decision of an administrative agency acting in a quasi-judicial capacity is not subject to collateral attack if the agency had jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter. In re Applications T-851 and T-852, 268 Neb. 620, 686 N.W.2d 360 (2004); Bryant v. Arkansas Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 54 Ark. App. 157, 924 S.W.2d 472 (1996).”

Ms. **8-9, quoting Bishop State Community College v. Williams, 4 So. 3d 1152, 1159 (Ala. Civ. App. 2008). The fraud asserted by the Plaintiffs did not allow a collateral action because it was “[i]ntrinsic fraud [which] necessarily includes, for example, perjury of a party to a case or controversy, such as the false statements allegedly made by the Defendants to the Commission. See generally Greathouse v. Alfa Fin. Corp., 732 So. 2d 1013, 1016-17 (Ala. Civ. App. 1999) (allegedly false statements contained in affidavit filed in collections action amounted to intrinsic fraud rather than ‘fraud on the court’).” Ms. *7, n. 9.

In dismissing the action as a collateral attack, the court explains “[a]llegations of fraud before a deliberative body should be brought before the body which was the victim of the alleged fraud.” Ms. **11-12, quoting Wyatt v. United States, 23 Cl. Ct. 314, 319 (1991).

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