Opinion:Bd. of County Commissioners v. State ex rel. Okla. Dept. of Corrections, 2021 OK CIV APP 33
Subject matter:County Government
Date Decided:July 30, 2021; Mandate Issued: August 25, 202
Trial Court:District Court of Oklahoma County; Judge Stallings
Route to this Court:Appeal of trial court’s grant of motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Facts:The Board of County Commissioners of five counties (Seminole, Oklahoma, Atoka, Lincoln and Delaware) filed suit against the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) and the State Board of Corrections for a declaratory judgment and damages for amounts expensed on prisoners held in the Counties’ jails and not reimbursed by DOC. The DOC moved to dismiss the claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the basis that the reimbursement rates and procedures are set out in 57 O.S. Supp. 2018 § 38 and the trial court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate the Counties’ claims because the determination of the matter rests in the executive branch of government. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss and the Counties appealed.
Standard of Review:De novo review of the dismissal’s correctness. 
Analysis:Housing inmates after the date of judgment and sentencing is a state purpose. County jails are sometimes used as prisons for prisoners who have been sentenced but not yet transported to a state prison. When this occurs, counties are entitled to reimbursement for the cost of caring for and transporting the inmates. 57 O.S. Supp. 2018 § 38 sets the DOC daily rate of reimbursement to counties and governs the procedure when a county’s actual cost exceeds the statutory daily rate. Section 38 provides that in the event the DOC and the county are unable to agree on a daily rate, the State Auditor decides the rate. The Auditor as a member of the Executive Branch exercises discretion in the performance of his duties under Section 38 and the courts may only interfere with that power in extreme situations (e.g., arbitrary or capricious conduct or an abuse of discretion). Therefore, the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate a claim that would require the court to decide the “actual daily cost reimbursement” referenced in Section 38. However, Section 38 does not govern reimbursement rate for the costs of transporting inmates and the district court has subject matter jurisdiction to determine reimbursement for transporting inmates to DOC facilities.   
Outcome:Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. 
Vote:Goree, P.J. (author), Mitchell, J. and Prince, J., concur.
Other: Certiorari not sought.