In Wisconsin, a party seeking judicial review of an administrative decision must, within 30 days of service of the agency decision, file a petition for review in the trial court and serve the agency with a copy of the petition. If the 30th day falls on a Saturday and the agency is closed on Saturday, the party can wait until Monday to personally serve the agency. But what if the party is serving the agency by mail? Can it wait until Monday to mail the petition even though the post office is open on Saturday? Yes, it can, according to a recent published decision by District 4 of Wisconsin’s court of appeals. Madison Metro. Sch. Dist. v. Evers, 2014 WI App 109.
On August 15, 2013, Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) denied four applications for open enrollment for students at the Madison Metropolitan School District and served a copy of the decision on the district. Thirty days later, September 14, was a Saturday. DPI had no office hours on Saturdays. The district filed its petition for review in the circuit court on Thursday, September 12, the 28th day after DPI’s decision. The district served a copy of the petition on DPI by certified mail on the following Monday, September 16, the 32nd day. The issue for the court was whether next-business-day service was timely under Wis. Stat. § 227.53(1)(a), Wisconsin’s general statute governing review of administrative decisions.
The statute does not explicitly answer the question, so the court considered two other statutes, the civil-procedure rule for counting time in Wis. Stat. § 801.15 and the general rule of statutory construction in Wis. Stat. § 990.001(4).
The court chose not to apply § 801.15 because the parties’ arguments related to it were not well developed. This was a surprising decision, given that § 801.15 likely trumps § 990.001(4) explicitly.
In any event, the court explained that § 990.001(4) provides that “when the last day to accomplish any of the listed acts, including ‘service upon’ a government entity, falls on a Saturday, and the government entity has no official office hours on that day, service may be accomplished on the next business day.” DPI had no office hours on Saturday, so service on the next Monday was timely.
But, DPI argued, service was accomplished by certified mail; while in-person service could not have been accomplished on Saturday (DPI was closed), service by certified mail could have. The court rejected this argument. The statute did not distinguish between types of service. The court preferred the bright-line rule that it saw in the statute: Regardless of the method of service, if the last day to serve an agency fell on a Saturday when the agency was closed, service on the next Monday was timely.