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McCoy v. Albin

Supreme Court of Nebraska

December 1, 2017

Troy McCoy, appellee,
v.
John H. Albin, Nebraska Commissioner of Labor, appellant.

         1. Administrative Law: Judgments: Appeal and Error. When reviewing an order of a district court under the Administrative Procedure Act for errors appearing on the record, the inquiry is whether the decision conforms to the law, is supported by competent evidence, and is neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable.

         2. Statutes: Appeal and Error. Statutory interpretation is a question of law that an appellate court resolves independently of the trial court.

         3. Statutes: Legislature: Intent. When asked to interpret a statute, a court must determine and give effect to the purpose and intent of the Legislature as ascertained from the entire language of the statute considered in its plain, ordinary, and popular sense.

         4. Statutes: Intent. In construing a statute, a court must look at the statutory objective to be accomplished, the problem to be remedied, or the purpose to be served, and then place on the statute a reasonable construction which best achieves the purpose of the statute, rather than a construction defeating the statutory purpose.

         5. Actions: Service of Process. A civil action is commenced by filing in the proper court a petition and causing a summons to be issued.

         Appeal from the District Court for Sarpy County: William B. Zastera, Judge. Reversed with directions.

          Katie S. Thurber, Thomas A. Ukinski, and Dale M. Shotkoski for appellant.

          Troy McCoy, pro se.

         [298 Neb. 298] Heavican, C.J., Wright, Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy. Kelch, and Funke, JJ.

          Heavican, C.J.

         INTRODUCTION

         In 1995, the Nebraska Department of Labor (Department) issued a "Notice of Deputy's Overpayment Determination'' to Troy McCoy, informing McCoy that he had been overpaid $850 for unemployment benefits. In 2016, his income tax refund from the State of Nebraska in the amount of $293 was intercepted to partially pay the overpayment judgment, as authorized by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-665(1)(c) (Cum. Supp. 2016). McCoy appealed from that action.

         Following a hearing, an appeal tribunal, citing Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-218 (Reissue 2016), concluded that the Department's action was barred by a 4-year statute of limitations. The Department petitioned the Sarpy County District Court for review of the tribunal's determination. The district court affirmed, and the Department appeals. We conclude there is no time limitation to the interception of a state tax refund under § 48-665(1)(c), and accordingly, we reverse the decision of the district court with directions to reverse the decision of the appeal tribunal.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On October 25, 1995, notice was mailed to McCoy indicating that he had been overpaid unemployment benefits in the amount of $850 and that he was liable for repayment of that amount. No appeal was taken, and no funds were repaid at that time.

         On February 22, 2016, McCoy received notice that his income tax refund totaling $293 had been intercepted and applied to his overpayment of unemployment benefits. McCoy, acting pro se, appealed, contending that the Department should not have intercepted his 2015 refund of $293. He also took issue with the Department's interception of his 1997 income tax refund in the amount of $217.

         [298 Neb. 299] A hearing was held before an appeal tribunal. That tribunal found in McCoy's favor, holding that the Department was barred by the statute of limitations from intercepting the 2015 refund. The Department appealed to the district court, arguing that the statute providing for the authority to intercept tax refunds to apply against unemployment benefits did not include a statute of limitations and that, in any case, a statute of limitations is an affirmative defense that was not raised by McCoy and thus was waived. The district court affirmed.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         The Department assigns, restated and consolidated, that the district court erred in affirming the appeal tribunal's decision that the Department was barred from intercepting McCoy's ...


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