Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Coester v. State

Supreme Court of South Dakota

March 14, 2018

WILLIAM E. COESTER and JUDY A. COESTER, Petitioners and Appellants,
v.
WAUBAY TOWNSHIP, an organized township and political subdivision of the State of South Dakota, and THEODORE WASILK a/k/a TED WASILK, NEIL HOLSHER and TERRY ZUBKE, each in their capacity as Township supervisors, Respondents and Appellees.

          CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON JANUARY 8, 2018

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIFTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT DAY COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE JON S. FLEMMER Judge

          WILLIAM E. COESTER of Coester Schwandt Law Office Milbank, South Dakota Attorneys for petitioners and appellants.

          JAY M. LEIBEL Madison, South Dakota Attorneys for respondents and appellees.

          KERN, Justice

         [¶1.] William and Judy Coester (Petitioners) made numerous requests to Waubay Township to maintain roads accessing their property. After the Township refused each request to maintain the roads, Petitioners applied for a writ of mandamus from the circuit court. The circuit court denied the writ, determining that the Township had no duty to maintain the roads as they were not part of the township road system. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2.] Petitioners own property on the south shore of Enemy Swim Lake, in Waubay Township (Township), Day County, South Dakota. South Bay Drive bisects Petitioners' property, and Snyder Drive runs adjacent to the southern boundary. These two roads connect to Dinkle Drive, which in turn connects to BIA Highway 500. The roads connecting to BIA Highway 500 have been dedicated to public use and platted as such. However, the Township has never maintained or removed snow from South Bay Drive, Snyder Drive, or Dinkle Drive, despite numerous requests from Petitioners to do so.

         [¶3.] Petitioners, in an attempt to force the Township to maintain these roads, sought a writ of mandamus from the circuit court. Petitioners admitted in their January 2017 petition for a writ that the Township had never maintained the roads. However, Petitioners claimed that the Township possessed the resources to do so and that the Township had previously exercised jurisdiction over the roads. In support of their claim, Petitioners requested that the circuit court take judicial notice of two easements, which the court received into evidence. The easements had been granted by the Township and dated October 31, 1992, and October 24, 1995, and provided the owners of various lots in Petitioners' subdivision perpetual easements for placing utilities and water lines under, over, in, or across the roadways running between the owners' lots.

         [¶4.] On February 1, 2017, the circuit court held a hearing on the petition for a writ of mandamus. On June 30, 2017, the circuit court issued a detailed memorandum decision denying the writ. According to the circuit court, the issue was whether the roads in question were township roads under SDCL 31-13-1. SDCL 31-13-1 provides in part that "[t]he board of township supervisors shall . . . maintain all of the township roads within the township" (emphasis added), which the court stated "clearly indicates that a 'township road' within the township is something different than simply a road within the township[.]" While acknowledging that SDCL 31-13-1 does not define township roads, the court highlighted the statutory definition of a township road system. The court observed that township road systems are defined in SDCL 31-13-1 as section line roads; judicially declared roads; roads impliedly accepted by the township through maintenance; and other roads designated as being on the township road system by a board resolution. The court then concluded that the Legislature's decision "to limit the responsibility for . . . maintenance of roads . . . to all of the 'township roads' clearly indicate[ed] that the township has responsibility for . . . maintenance of only those roads on the township road system."

         [¶5.] On August 2, 2017, the circuit court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law as well as its judgment and order. In its findings of fact and conclusions of law, which incorporated the memorandum decision, the court noted that the Township had never signed or approved any plat containing the roads at issue. Additionally, it found that the Township granted the easements simply "to assist the landowners in obtaining utilities and water." In its conclusions of law, the court determined that the roads were "private roads dedicated to the public pursuant to SDCL 11-3-12[.]"

         [¶6.] Petitioners appeal the order denying the petition for a writ of mandamus, arguing the court erred by determining that the roads were private roads and that the Township had no statutory duty to maintain the roads.

         Analysis and Decision

         [¶7.] "This Court reviews the decision to grant or deny a writ of mandamus under an abuse of discretion standard." Krsnak v. S.D. Dep't of Env't & Nat. Res., 2012 S.D. 89, ¶ 8, 824 N.W.2d 429, 433. An abuse of discretion is "a fundamental error of judgment, a choice outside the reasonable range of permissible choices, a decision . . . [that], on full consideration, is arbitrary or unreasonable." Wald, Inc. v. Stanley, 2005 S.D. 112, ¶ 8, 706 N.W.2d 626, 629. However, "statutory interpretation and application are questions of law that we review de novo." Krsnak, 2012 S.D. 89, ΒΆ 8, 824 N.W.2d at 433. We discern legislative intent primarily using the language of the statute, giving ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.