In re the Marriage of: Lawrence Wayne Schneider, petitioner, Respondent, vs. Jill Lynn Schneider, Respondent Below; County of Anoka, intervenor, Appellant.

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In re the Marriage of: Lawrence Wayne Schneider, petitioner, Respondent, vs. Jill Lynn Schneider, Respondent Below; County of Anoka, intervenor, Appellant. A06-1788, Court of Appeals Unpublished, August 28, 2007.

This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480 A. 08, subd. 3 (2006).

 

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A06-1788

 

 

In re the Marriage of:

Lawrence Wayne Schneider, petitioner,
 
Respondent,
vs.
Jill Lynn Schneider,
Respondent Below,
 
County of Anoka, intervenor,
Appellant.

 

 

Filed August 28, 2007

Reversed

Peterson, Judge

 

 

Anoka County District Court

File No. F4-02-2516

 

 

Lawrence W. Schneider, 1586 Park Street, St. Paul, MN  55126-4514 (pro se respondent)

 

 

Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka County Attorney, Bethany A. Lindberg, D. Marie Sieber, Assistant County Attorneys, Anoka County Government Center, 2100 Third Avenue, Seventh Floor, Anoka, MN  55303 (for appellant)

 

 

            Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

 

PETERSON, Judge

            In this child-support-related dispute involving the suspension of respondent-father's driver's license, appellant-county argues that the record does not support the fine imposed on the county for erroneously suspending father's driver's license.  We reverse.

FACTS             In February 2006, appellant County of Anoka served on respondent Lawrence Schneider a notice of hearing and intention to suspend respondent's driver's license under Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 13 (2004).  That statute permits suspension of a child-support obligor's driver's license if the obligor has accrued child-support arrearages equal to or greater than the amount owed for three months of child support.  Following a hearing in February 2006, a child-support magistrate (CSM) found that respondent had accrued child-support arrearages in an amount greater than three times his monthly child-support obligation and was not in compliance with a payment plan that he entered into in May 2005.  But the CSM also found that respondent was unemployed and had made substantial child-support payments in January and February 2006, considering his financial circumstances.  The CSM temporarily denied the county's request to suspend father's driver's license, pending an April 2006 review hearing. 

            At the April 2006 review hearing, the county admitted that, contrary to the CSM's order, respondent's license had been suspended due to actions of the county's child-support department and was still suspended.  The CSM imposed a $150 fine against the county to reimburse respondent for reasonable costs incurred as a result of the county's wrongful suspension of his driver's license, and judgment was entered accordingly.  The district court affirmed the CSM's order.  This appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

            The county argues that the fine imposed against it should be reversed because the evidence does not support the finding that respondent incurred $150 in costs as a result of the suspension of his driver's license.

            When a district court affirms a CSM's ruling, the CSM's ruling becomes the ruling of the district court, and an appellate court reviews the district court's decision.  Kilpatrick v. Kilpatrick, 673 N.W.2d 528, 530 n.2 (Minn. App. 2004).  There is no statutory authority authorizing the fine imposed against the county.  Thus, if authority exists, it would arise under the district court's inherent power to award equitable relief.  See DeLa Rosa v. DeLa Rosa, 309 N.W.2d 755, 757-58 (Minn. 1981) (discussing inherent authority of courts in dissolution matters); see also Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343, 351 (Minn. 2002) (discussing court's inherent authority in child-support matters); Kronick v. Kronick, 482 N.W.2d 533, 535 (Minn. App. 1992) (addressing without deciding issue of whether court had inherent power to award private fines in dissolution cases).

            The decision to grant equitable relief is within the discretion of the court and will not be reversed unless there is a clear abuse of that discretion.  Medtronic, Inc. v. Advanced Bionics Corp., 630 N.W.2d 438, 450 (Minn. App. 2001).  "In all civil cases without a jury, a trial court is required to find the facts specially and state separately its conclusions of law thereon.  The purpose of the rule is to aid an appellate court by affording it a clear understanding of the ground or basis of the decision."  Nelson v. Nelson, 384 N.W.2d 468, 471 (Minn. App. 1986) (quotations and citations omitted); see also Peterson v. Peterson, 308 Minn. 297, 307, 242 N.W.2d 88, 94-95 (1976) (requiring written findings and conclusions of law of both referee and district court showing grounds for decision on a motion to modify custody).  A district court abuses its discretion when it reaches "a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on record." Putz, 645 N.W.2d at 347.

            The district court specifically stated that it awarded respondent $150 for reasonable costs incurred as a result of the county's wrongful suspension of his driver's license.  Respondent indicated at the April 2006 review hearing that it had been difficult for him to seek employment without a driver's license.  But he presented no evidence of specific costs incurred or job-seeking opportunities missed as a result of the suspension of his driver's license.  Because the record contains no evidence regarding costs incurred by respondent as a result of the suspension of his driver's license and the incurrence of costs by respondent was the stated reason for imposing the fine against the county, the district court abused its discretion in imposing the fine, and we reverse.

            Because we are reversing on evidentiary grounds, we need not address the county's argument that the district court did not have inherent authority to impose the fine.

            Reversed.