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Sullins v. Iowa District Court for Polk County

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 8, 2017

RAYMOND SULLINS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
IOWA DISTRICT COURT FOR POLK COUNTY, Defendant, and CITY OF DES MOINES AND SAFARI II, L.L.C., Intervening Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Joel D. Novak, Judge.

         A former tenant appeals the district court's denial of his certiorari petitions.

          Raymond W. Sullins, West Des Moines, pro se appellant.

          Luke M. DeSmet, Assistant City Attorney, for intervening defendant-appellee City of Des Moines.

          David J. Hellstern of Sullivan & Ward, P.C., West Des Moines, for intervening defendant-appellee Safari II, L.L.C.

          Vogel, P.J., McDonald, J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          SCOTT, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Raymond Sullins appeals the district court's denial of his certiorari petitions, which challenged the legality of two small claims actions. He raises a number of claims on appeal. Because we conclude the district court correctly determined it had no jurisdiction to review the petitions for writ of certiorari involving the district associate court, res judicata prevents Sullins from raising his claims against the small claims courts, and the district court property denied Sullins's motion for a new trial, we affirm the decision of the district court.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Sullins rented a commercial space from Safari II, L.L.C., for his wood pallet business. Safari brought a forcible entry and detainer (FED) action against Sullins in small claims court after the City of Des Moines cited Safari, as the property owner, for violation of the city zoning code. In the citation, the City alleged the storage of the wood pallets on the property did not conform to the zoning ordinance in effect for the property.[1] The FED petition alleged Sullins violated the terms of the lease agreement with Safari by being in violation of the city ordinance. After a hearing on the FED petition on September 8, 2015, the FED court filed a written ruling that stated: "After careful review of the lease, this court finds that defendants[2] have violated numerous terms of the lease[;] therefore[, ] defendants shall be removed from the property."

         The ordinance violation proceeding between Safari and the City was continued pending the resolution of the FED proceeding. On September 22, 2015, Sullins filed a petition to intervene in the ordinance violation proceeding, asserting he was the "real party in interest as a party in possession pursuant to a multi-year lease of the real estate premises that are the subject of this action." The City resisted the motion to intervene, and the court issued an order denying the motion without a hearing on September 25, 2015. Three days later, Sullins filed a second petition to intervene in the ordinance violation proceeding. The following day, the court ruled the "matter had been previously ruled upon."[3]

         Sullins appealed both the FED decision and the denial of his petition to intervene in the zoning ordinance proceeding to the district associate court, which denied both appeals. In the ordinance violation appeal, the district associate court found the interests of Safari and Sullins were the same, so Safari could adequately protect the interests of Sullins. The court also noted, "No facts were presented to show that Sullins did not violate the municipal ordinance." In the FED appeal, the district associate court ruled, "Reasonable evidence was presented [at the FED hearing] to establish that there were violations of the Municipal Code." Because a violation of the municipal code is a violation of the lease agreement, it concluded the FED court's ruling was "legally sufficient." The district associate court concluded there was "a sound factual basis for the Magistrate's determination that [Sullins] violated the requirements of the lease and that the FED was properly granted."

         Sullins sought discretionary review of the district associate court's denial of his appeal from the FED proceeding. The supreme court denied discretionary review in November 2015. There is no indication in this record that Sullins sought discretionary review of the district associate court's denial of his appeal from the ordinance violation proceeding.

         Next, Sullins filed certiorari petitions in the district court, challenging the small claims courts' rulings in the FED proceeding and the zoning ordinance proceeding and also challenging the district associate court's appeal decisions in both of those cases. Safari defended the small claims court decisions and district associate court decisions, and the district court permitted the City to intervene. All matters were consolidated by the district court, and at the hearing on the petitions, the district court permitted Sullins's motion to amend his petitions to include an allegation that the decisions of the lower courts should be vacated based on irregularities. See Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.1012(2).

         The district court issued a written ruling that denied Sullins's claims. The district court noted it had no jurisdiction over certiorari petitions filed in reference to district associate court decisions; those must be filed in the supreme court. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.107. It also rejected Sullins's claims ...


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