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Butler County School District 12-0502 v. Freeholder Petitioners

Supreme Court of Nebraska

November 8, 2013

Butler County School District 12-0502, also known as East Butler Public School District, a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska, appellant,
v.
Freeholder Petitioners 1 through 10: Fern Jansa et al., appellees. and Brenda Coufal, an individual resident taxpayer of Butler County School District 12-0502, also known as East Butler Public School District, appellee,

Page 317

Appeal from the District Court for Saunders County: MARY C. GILBRIDE, Judge.

Rex R. Schultze and Derek A. Aldridge, of Perry, Guthery, Haase & Gessford, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.

Maureen Freeman-Caddy, of Bromm, Lindahl, Freeman-Caddy & Lausterer, for appellees Fern Jansa et al.

Heavican, C.J., Wright, Connolly, Stephan, McCormack, Miller-Lerman, and Cassel, JJ.

Syllabus of the Court

1. Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. A jurisdictional question which does not involve a factual dispute is determined by an appellate court as a matter of law.

2. Judgments: Appeal and Error. An appellate court independently reviews questions of law decided by a lower court.

3. Jurisdiction. For the prior jurisdiction rule to apply, there must be equivalent proceedings.

Miller-Lerman, J.

NATURE OF CASE

This case has previously been before this court. See Butler Cty. Sch. Dist. v. Freeholder Petitioners, 283 Neb. 903, 814 N.W.2d 724 (2012) ( East Butler I ). The underlying case stems from petitions filed by freeholders, the appellees, before the Saunders County freeholder board (the Board) in which they successfully sought to move their property from the Prague Public School District (Prague District) to the Wahoo Public School District (Wahoo District). Butler County School District 12-0502, also known as the East Butler Public School District (East Butler), the appellant, objects to the appellees' petitions [286 Neb. 815] primarily because East Butler, along with the Prague District, had a petition pending before the State Committee for the Reorganization of School Districts (Reorganization Committee) involving a proposed merger at the time the appellees filed their freeholder petitions. The merger plan encompassed the appellees' property.

In East Butler I, we concluded, inter alia, that East Butler had standing to appeal the Board's decision and we remanded the cause to the district court before which the appeal from the Board's decision was pending. Following remand, the district court rejected East Butler's argument that the Board lacked jurisdiction. East Butler contended that the Reorganization Committee had exclusive jurisdiction to act under the " prior jurisdiction rule." The district court determined, inter alia, that the prior jurisdiction rule did not apply to this case and that the Board had jurisdiction over the appellees' freeholder petitions. The district court affirmed the Board's order. East Butler appeals. We affirm.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

In East Butler I, we set forth the facts by stating:

The district court summarized the facts as follows:
* On April 13, 2010, East Butler and the Prague District filed a petition and plan for dissolution and merger with the Reorganization Committee.
* On April 20, 2010, the appellees filed freeholder petitions with the Board seeking to remove property owned by them from the Prague District and move it to the Wahoo District.

Page 318

* On May 14, 2010, the Reorganization Committee approved the dissolution and merger and entered an order merging East Butler and the Prague District. This order did not become effective immediately.
* On May 17, 2010, the Board granted the appellees' petitions to move their property into the Wahoo District.
* On June 10 [sic], 2010, the merger of East Butler and the Prague District became effective.
* On July 1, 2010, East Butler appealed [the Board's decision] to the district court. In the appeal, East Butler [286 Neb. 816] sought vacation or reversal of the Board's order. It alleged that the Board lacked jurisdiction because the Reorganization Committee had exclusive jurisdiction over the matter or that the Reorganization Committee had prior jurisdiction to act under the prior jurisdiction rule.
The district court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. It found that East Butler had not complied with [Neb.Rev.Stat.] § 79-458(5) [Reissue 2008] when that section was read in pari materia with Neb.Rev.Stat. § 23-136 (Reissue 2007). Section 79-458(5) permits a party to appeal from an action of a freeholder board in the same manner that a party can appeal from a county board's allowance or disallowance of a claim. The court read § 79-458(5) to require a party to comply with the time limit to appeal under § 23-136, which governs appeals from a county board's allowance of a claim. Because East Butler did not appeal within the 10 days specified for appeals under § 23-136, the court determined that it did not acquire ...

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