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James Woods appealed the district court's dismissal of his appeal of the appraisers' award in an eminent domain action initiated by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas. The district court found that Woods' notice of appeal, filed forty-eight days after the filing of the appraisers' report, was untimely. Woods contended that Unified Government failed to comply with the notice requirements applicable to eminent domain proceedings and, therefore, the district court should have extended the thirty-day statutory deadline for appealing the appraisers' award. The Supreme Court dismissed Woods' appeal, holding that the district court did not have the authority to extend or modify the jurisdictional requirement that a party's notice of appeal of an appraisers' award must be filed within thirty days of the filing of the appraisers' report.Receive FREE Daily Opinion Summaries by Email
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF KANSAS
JAMES C. WOODS,
UNIFIED GOVERNMENT OF WYCO/KCK,
SYLLABUS BY THE COURT
Where a district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over an issue, an appellate
court does not acquire jurisdiction over the matter on appeal.
Appellate jurisdiction is defined by statute, and an appellate court can exercise
jurisdiction only under the circumstances allowed by statute.
An eminent domain proceeding is a special statutory proceeding that is not a civil
action covered by the Kansas Code of Civil Procedure. The procedure for exercising
eminent domain set forth in the Eminent Domain Procedure Act, K.S.A. 26-501 et seq.,
shall be followed in all such proceedings.
In an eminent domain proceeding, a party dissatisfied with the award of appraisers
may appeal from the award by filing a written notice of appeal with the clerk of the
district court within 30 days after the filing of the appraisers' report. The statutory time
limit in which to appeal an award of appraisers is a jurisdictional requirement.
If an appeal of an award of appraisers is not filed within 30 days after the filing of
the appraisers' report, the district court has no statutory authority to enlarge, extend, or
modify that time limit, but rather the district court has no choice but to dismiss an
untimely filed appeal.
The only issue that may be considered in an appeal of an appraisers' award
pursuant to K.S.A. 2009 Supp. 26-508 is the fair market value of the property being
taken. Outside issues, such as the failure of condemnor to strictly comply with the
Eminent Domain Procedure Act or the failure of condemnor to afford due process to the
landowner, can only be litigated in a separate civil action, such as a suit for injunction.
Appeal from Wyandotte District Court; R. WAYNE LAMPSON, judge. Opinion filed April 27,
2012. Appeal dismissed.
Timothy J. Evans, of Evans & Mullinix, P.A., of Shawnee, argued the cause and was on the brief
Jason B. Prier, of Orrick & Associates, L.L.P., of Overland Park, argued the cause, and Patrick
R. Watkins and Timothy P. Orrick, of the same firm, were with him on the brief for appellee.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
JOHNSON, J.: James C. Woods appeals the district court's dismissal of his appeal
of the appraisers' award in an eminent domain action initiated by the Unified Government
of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas (Unified Government). The district court
found that Woods' notice of appeal, filed 48 days after the filing of the appraisers' report,
was untimely under K.S.A. 2009 Supp. 26-508. Woods contends that Unified
Government failed to comply with the notice requirements applicable to eminent domain
proceedings and, therefore, the district court should have extended the 30-day statutory
deadline for appealing the appraisers' award. Finding that the district court did not have
the authority to extend or modify K.S.A. 2009 Supp. 26-508's jurisdictional requirement
that a party's notice of appeal of an appraisers' award must be filed within 30 days of the
filing of the appraisers' report, we dismiss Woods' appeal.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL OVERVIEW
In 2009, Unified Government commenced a proceeding to condemn certain real
estate, including a tract owned by Woods. On December 2, 2009, the court-appointed
appraisers filed their report, fixing the amount of the awards for the property affected by
the eminent domain action. On December 7, Unified Government filed a document with
the district court entitled "Notice of Filing of Appraisers' Report," which recited that
Unified Government had informed the named defendants that the appraisers' report had
been completed and that the report was filed in the office of the Clerk of the District
Court of Wyandotte County. Woods now contends that he did not receive the notice that
the appraisers' report had been filed.
On December 21, 2009, Unified Government paid the awards for all of the
condemned real estate, and Woods acknowledges that on the following day, December
22, he received notice from Unified Government that his award had been paid into the
district court. Woods did not file his notice of appeal of the appraisers' award on his
condemned real estate until January 19, 2010. Unified Government responded with a
motion to dismiss Woods' appeal as untimely.
The district court heard the motion to dismiss on April 6, 2010. At that hearing,
Woods' attorney simply argued that he had believed that he had 30 days from the
December 22 notice of award payment in which to file his client's notice of appeal. The
attorney also mentioned that he had been informed by counsel for Unified Government
that "there was a certificate of mailing of this notice of the appraisers award on December
2nd or shortly after that period of time." But Woods' counsel asserted that the only notice
Woods received was the December 22 notice of award payment. In response to the court's
direct inquiry as to the documents that he had received, Woods stated that "[t]hey sent me
other information out in regards to the meeting that was taking place and the appraisal."
No attempt was made to identify the other documents to which Woods might have been
Subsequently, on April 15, 2010, the district court dismissed Woods' appeal,
finding that it was barred because it was filed past the statutory deadline. Woods then
filed this appeal, in which he simply states the issue to be: "Did Mr. Woods timely file
his appeal?" His argument revolves around a contention that Unified Government failed
to mail him notice of the December 2, 2009, filing of the appraisers' report and, therefore,
he is not bound by the statutory appeal period. Unified Government responds by: (1)
complaining that Woods has changed his argument on appeal; (2) contending that it
substantially complied with the statutory notice requirements of K.S.A. 2009 Supp. 26505; and (3) arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the
Woods' argument on appeal hinges upon his contention that Unified Government
did not comply with the notice provisions of the Eminent Domain Procedures Act, K.S.A.
26-501 et seq. (EDPA). See K.S.A. 26-516 (naming the Act). Specifically, Woods points
to K.S.A. 2009 Supp. 26-505, which required Unified Government, within 3 days of
receiving notice that the appraisers had filed their report with the clerk of the district
court, to mail a written notice of the filing of the appraisers' report to every person who
owned any interest in any of the property being taken, and then to file in the office of the
clerk of the district court an affidavit showing proof of the mailing of such notice. Woods
asserts that Unified Government did not mail him a notice of the filing of the appraisers'
report and that Unified Government also failed to file the required affidavit with the
Unified Government acknowledges that it did not file an affidavit with the court.
However, it asserts that the document it did file, entitled "Notice of Filing of Appraisers'
Report," substantially complied with the statutory notice requirements. Further, Unified
Government argues that the district court never acquired jurisdiction over the appeal
because of the untimely notice of appeal. Accordingly, we begin with the jurisdiction
question, because if a district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over an issue, an
appellate court does not acquire jurisdiction over the matter on appeal. See State v.
McCoin, 278 Kan. 465, 468, 101 P.3d 1204 (2004).
Standard of Review
The existence of appellate jurisdiction is a question of law over which an appellate
court possesses unlimited review. State v. Denney, 283 Kan. 781, 787, 156 P.3d 1275
Kansas courts only have such appellate jurisdiction as is conferred by statute, and
in the absence of compliance with the statutory rules, a court has the duty to dismiss the
appeal. In re Condemnation of Land v. Stranger Valley Land Co., 280 Kan. 576, 578, 123
P.3d 731 (2005). To the extent we must engage in statutory interpretation to determine
jurisdictional circumstances, this court has unlimited review. See In re D.M.-T., 292 Kan.
31, 33, 249 P.3d 418 (2011).
"An eminent domain proceeding is a special statutory proceeding and is not a civil
action covered by the code of civil procedure." Miller v. Bartle, 283 Kan. 108, Syl. ¶ 2,
150 P.3d 1282 (2007). Instead, "[t]he procedure for exercising eminent domain, as set
forth in [the EDPA], shall be followed in all eminent domain proceedings." K.S.A. 2009
Supp. 26-501(a). The EDPA provision governing Woods' attempt to appeal was K.S.A.
2009 Supp. 26-508, which provided:
"(a) If the plaintiff, or any defendant, is dissatisfied with the award of the
appraisers, such party, within 30 days after the filing of the appraisers' report, may appeal
from the award by filing a written notice of appeal with the clerk of the district court. The
appeal shall be deemed perfected upon the filing of the notice of appeal. In the event any
parties shall perfect an appeal, copies of such notice of appeal shall be mailed to all
parties affected by such appeal, within three days after the date of the perfection thereof.
An appeal by the plaintiff or any defendant shall bring the issue of damages to all
interests in the tract before the court for trial de novo. The appeal shall be docketed as a
new civil action, the docket fee of a new court action shall be collected and the appeal
shall be tried as any other civil action. The only issue to be determined therein shall be
the compensation required by K.S.A. 26-513, and amendments thereto.
"(b) This section, as amended by this act, shall be construed and applied
prospectively, as well as retroactively to July 1, 2003, and shall apply to all eminent
domain proceedings pending on or commenced after July 1, 2003."
In Stranger Valley, this court had occasion to construe a prior version of the
statute—K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 26-508—to identify which of the requirements set forth in
the statute were jurisdictional. That version did not have a subsection (b), and the first
sentence of the prior statute read as follows:
"If the plaintiff, or any defendant, is dissatisfied with the award of the appraisers, such
party, within 30 days after the filing of the appraisers' report, may appeal from the award
by filing a written notice of appeal with the clerk of the district court and paying the
docket fee of a new court action." (Emphasis added.) K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 26-508.
Likewise, the next sentence of the current statute, providing that the appeal is deemed
perfected upon the filing of the notice of appeal, was not contained in the prior version
being applied in Stranger Valley. 280 Kan. at 578-79; L. 2006, ch. 192, sec. 13.
Ultimately, the Stranger Valley court found that the two requirements set forth in
the first sentence of the statute, i.e., timely filing the notice of appeal and paying the
docket fee, were jurisdictional requirements. However, the remainder of the statute dealt
with procedures to be followed after the appeal was perfected, and, therefore, those
requirements were not jurisdictional. Specifically in that regard, Stranger Valley held that
"the failure to docket the appeal as a new civil action does not defeat subject matter
jurisdiction." 280 Kan. 576, Syl.
Importantly for our purposes, Stranger Valley also noted that a district court is
"without jurisdiction to enlarge the time for filing a notice of appeal in an eminent
domain proceeding pursuant to K.S.A. 2004 Supp. 60-206(b) or to permit a filing out of
time for excusable neglect as provided by K.S.A. 60-260(b). [Citation omitted.]" 280
Kan. at 586. That holding is consistent with our subsequent declaration in Bartle that an
eminent domain case is a special statutory proceeding to which the Kansas Code of Civil
Procedure is inapplicable. 283 Kan. 108, Syl. ¶ 2.
Shortly after the December 9, 2005, filing of Stranger Valley, the current version
of 26-508 was published in the Kansas Register on May 25, 2006. L. 2006, ch. 192, sec.
13. It is obvious that the 2006 amendments were intended to clarify that the paying of the
docket fee was not to be a jurisdictional requirement, contrary to the holding in Stranger
Valley. But, pointedly, while the legislature was amending 26-508, it did not alter or
amend the portion of the "plain and unambiguous language of the first sentence of the
statute," which Stranger Valley said requires "[t]he filing of a notice of appeal within 30
days" to perfect an appeal. 280 Kan. at 580. In other words, the legislature left intact this
court's holding that the filing of a notice of appeal within 30 days of the filing of the
appraisers' report is a jurisdictional requirement.
Likewise, the legislative amendments to 26-508 did nothing to alter or amend
Stranger Valley's declaration that a district court has no statutory authority to enlarge or
extend the period in which a dissatisfied party can appeal the appraisers' award. Surely, if
the legislature had intended otherwise, it could have set forth any exceptions to the strict
application of the filing deadline when it was amending 26-508 to eliminate the paying of
the docket fee as a jurisdictional requirement. It did not do so. Accordingly, the plain and
unambiguous language of K.S.A. 2009 Supp. 26-508 makes the filing of a notice of
appeal within 30 days of the filing of the appraisers' report an absolute requirement to
invoke the subject matter jurisdiction of the district court, and there are no statutory
exceptions which would authorize the district court to enlarge or modify the statutory
Woods intimates that it is unfair to strictly apply the jurisdictional requirement in
his case, because he was not properly advised of the filing date of the appraisers' report,
i.e., he did not get timely notice that the 30-day period had commenced to run. The
evidence is conflicting on that point. Moreover, one's first response to such an equitable
argument might be that, on the date that Woods acknowledges he received such notice
(December 22, 2009), he still had plenty of time to get a timely notice of appeal filed
with the district court by the deadline of January 4, 2010. He has not explained what
prevented him from doing so.
Nevertheless, we could not offer Woods relief regardless of the facts or the
equities in his case. Recently, we abolished the unique circumstances doctrine, which
previously had allowed a discretionary enlargement of the time to appeal in equitable
situations such as where the district court had misled the appellant on the time to appeal.
Board of Sedgwick County Comm'rs v. City of Park City, 293 Kan. 107, 120, 260 P.3d
387 (2011) (overruling Johnson v. American Cyanamid Co., 243 Kan. 291, 758 P.2d 206
 and Schroeder v. Urban, 242 Kan. 710, 750 P.2d 405 ). Our Park City
decision was principally based on Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. 205, 127 S. Ct. 2360, 168
L. Ed. 2d 96 (2007), wherein the United States Supreme Court held: "Because this Court
has no authority to create equitable exceptions to jurisdictional requirements, use of the
'unique circumstances' doctrine is illegitimate." Bowles, 551 U.S. at 214. Given that an
appeal to the district court from an appraisers' award in an eminent domain action is
nevertheless an appellate proceeding, see Stranger Valley, 280 Kan. at 578, the district
court, like the United States Supreme Court and Kansas Supreme Court, had no authority
to create any equitable exception to the jurisdictional requirement that the notice of
appeal be filed within 30 days of the appraisers' report.
In other words, the district court had no other choice but to dismiss the untimelyfiled appeal. Likewise, we have no choice but to dismiss this appeal because we are
powerless to review an issue over which the district court lacked subject matter
Before concluding, however, we pause to clarify that our decision does not mean
that we are offering any opinion as to the validity of Woods' claim of procedural
impropriety. Unified Government should have been constrained to exercise its power of
eminent domain "only on the occasion and in the mode and manner prescribed by the
legislature. Statutes conferring and circumscribing the power of eminent domain must be
strictly construed." Nat'l Compressed Steel Corp. v. Unified Gov't of Wyandotte
County/Kansas City, 272 Kan. 1239, 1255, 38 P.3d 723 (2002). Further, we do not decide
whether the notice Woods received comported with due process. However, those issues
were improper subjects for an appeal of the appraisers' award pursuant to K.S.A. 2009
Supp. 26-508, where the court "does not have jurisdiction to consider constitutional
issues or any issue other than the compensation due under K.S.A. 26-513." Bartle, 283
Kan. at 121. Woods' "outside issues," such as the Unified Government's improper
exercise of its power of eminent domain or any alleged violation of Woods' due process
rights, could "only be litigated in a separate civil action, usually by suit for injunction."
Nat'l Compressed Steel Corp., 272 Kan. at 1245. Woods failed to seek that remedy.