The opinion of the court was delivered by: Prather, Chief Justice,
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/07/1998 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. W. SWAN YERGER COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - STATE BOARDS AND AGENCIES
DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED - 1/14/1999
¶1. This case arises from the appellant's challenge to the statutory limitation on retirement benefits for Mississippi Highway Patrol employees. The hearing officer ruled the statute unconstitutional, and the Employee Appeals Board affirmed. The circuit court overruled the Employee Appeals Board, and held that the matter is a non-grievable issue under the Administrative Rules of the Employee Appeals Board; that the Employee Appeals Board is without authority to declare a statute unconstitutional; and, that the statute in question is constitutional. This Court affirms the judgment of the circuit Judge.
II. STATEMENT OF THE CASE
¶2. On May 13, 1996, Robert E. Moody of the Mississippi Highway Patrol (hereinafter MHP) filed a grievance against the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (hereinafter DPS). Moody contended that the 85% statutory maximum on retirement benefits enumerated in Miss. Code Ann. § 25-13-11 (e) *fn1 caused him to lose accumulated leave time. The hearing officer ruled Miss Code Ann. § 25-13-11 (e) unconstitutional. Specifically, the hearing officer found that this statute violated Moody's right to substantive due process, because its application deprived Moody of 99.44 days of accumulated leave. The hearing officer ruled that Moody was entitled to either compensation for the earned, unused personal leave or to have it credited to him through the state retirement system.
¶3. DPS appealed to the Mississippi Employee Appeals Board (hereinafter EAB). On May 12, 1997, the EAB affirmed the decision of the hearing officer.
¶4. Thereafter, on May 23, 1997, the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County granted DPS's petition for writ of certiorari. On January 7, 1998, the circuit court reversed the EAB's ruling. Specifically, the circuit court held:
This Court agrees with DPS's arguments that 1) the limits placed by statute on retirement benefits is a non-grievable issue in accordance with the EAB Administrative Rules, 2) that Miss. Code Ann. § 25-13-11(e) did not violate Moody's substantive due process rights, and 3) that the power to declare a statute unconstitutional lies with the judiciary, not an administrative agency. Thus, the decision of the EAB was unsupported by substantial evidence and beyond the scope of its powers and must, therefore, be reversed.
From that judgment, Moody appeals, and raises the following issues for consideration by this Court:
A. Whether the EAB correctly denied DPS's motion to dismiss and correctly found that Moody's appeal regarding retirement benefits and payment for unused compensated leave were grievable issues?
B. Whether the EAB is a lower tribunal that may rule on the constitutionality of a state statute in its application to Moody, since the test of the constitutionality of a statute, in its natural progression, is determined in the judicial system?
C. Whether, in its application, Miss. Code Ann. § 25-13-11 (e) violated Moody's substantive due process rights, and the EAB was correct in its application of law to the facts and circumstances of this case?
D. Whether the circuit court of Hinds County erred in reversing the EAB decision absent a showing that the EAB decision was clearly erroneous, not based on substantial evidence, was arbitrary and capricious, beyond the DPS' ...