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Geczy v. Dept. of Natural Resources (9/27/96), 924 P 2d 103
Notice: This opinion is subject to formal correction before publication in the Pacific
Reporter. Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the
Appellate Courts, 303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0607, fax
THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA
CAROL W. GECZY, )
) Supreme Court No. S-6814
) Superior Court No.
v. ) 3AN-93-9838 CIV
STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT ) O P I N I O N
OF NATURAL RESOURCES, )
Appellee. ) [No. 4409 - September 27, 1996]
Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska,
Third Judicial District, Anchorage,
Brian C. Shortell, Judge.
Appearances: Carol W. Geczy, pro se, Anchorage.
Robert C. Nauheim, Assistant Attorney General,
Anchorage, and Bruce M. Botelho, Attorney General,
Juneau, for Appellee.
Before: Compton, Chief Justice, Rabinowitz, Matthews,
Eastaugh and Fabe, Justices.
COMPTON, Chief Justice.
Carol Geczy appeals a decision of the superior court declining to
reinstate her appeal of a decision by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
denying her application for a grazing lease on East Sitkinak Island. We affirm.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
In 1960 the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a
fifteen-year grazing lease to Trinity Island, Inc., (Trinity) for BLM land on East
Sitkinak Island. BLM cancelled the lease in July 1973 due to Trinity's failure to
meet cattle stocking requirements and its failure to pay rent.
Geczy claims to have purchased the leasehold from Trinity in 1971.
In August 1973 Geczy notified BLM of the lease assignment. BLM rejected the
assignment, but agreed to grant Geczy a new, one-year lease. This lease was
renewed in 1974 and 1975. In 1975 BLM transferred the land in question
to the State. Thereafter, DNR renewed Geczy's lease on a year-to-year basis. In
1978 Geczy filed an application for a new lease. That application was eventually
denied in 1986. In 1986 and 1987 DNR issued Geczy one-year land-use permits.
In 1988 Geczy filed another leasehold application. DNR denied the application in
Geczy appealed this decision to the superior court and
contemporaneously moved for permission to appeal at public expense. The
superior court ordered the State to pay filing fees and the cost of the appeal bond.
Geczy thereafter moved for an order requiring the State to pay for the preparation
of the record. On January 5, 1994, the superior court denied the motion, stating
that the cost of preparing the record "has not been shown to be more than
appellant can pay without undue hardship." The court indicated that Geczy could
obtain the record at public expense if she presented evidence of her income, assets
and debts, and of the cost of preparing the record. Geczy did not respond to this
invitation. On January 28 the superior court issued notice that the appeal would
be dismissed on February 10 if Geczy did not make arrangements to transmit the
record to the superior court. On February 22 the superior court dismissed the
In November 1994 Geczy moved to reinstate the appeal. Geczy
argued that she should be excused from not acting promptly because she had
"health problems and was financially unable to pay for additional typing and
paralegal services needed to seek relief from the dismissal." The superior court
denied this motion; Geczy appeals.
Alaska Appellate Rule 511.5, which governs Geczy's appeal to the
superior court, see Alaska R. App. P. 606(a), allows the superior court to dismiss
an appeal for want of prosecution:
If an appellant . . . fails to comply with these rules, the
clerk shall notify the appellant . . . in writing that the
appeal will be dismissed for want of prosecution unless
the appellant remedies the default within 14 days after
the date of notification . . . . If the appellant fails to
comply within the 14-day period, the clerk shall issue an
order dismissing the appeal for want of prosecution. In
no case, except by order of the court on a motion to
reinstate the appeal, shall the appellant be entitled to
remedy the default after the appeal has been dismissed
under this rule.
Alaska R. App. P. 511.5(a). The superior court complied with this rule by notifying
Geczy that her appeal would be dismissed if she did not transmit the record. The
superior court also informed Geczy that it would consider her request that the
State pay for preparation of the record if she were to present evidence of her
income, assets and debts, and of the cost of preparing the record. Geczy did not
respond to this proposal, nor did she respond to the order requiring her to transmit
The rules of appellate procedure may be "relaxed or dispensed with . .
. where a strict adherence to them will work surprise or injustice." Alaska R. App.
P. 521. While it is true that dismissal may prejudice Geczy, she has not shown
how dismissal of her appeal will work a "surprise"or "injustice." She was given
notice of the possibility of dismissal, as well as guidance as to what she had to do
to avoid dismissal. Geczy cites "health problems"for her failure to comply with
the court's order. Nonetheless, Geczy has not explained how these problems
prevented her from providing the court with the information it requested, or, at the
very least, how they prevented her from asking for more time to respond. What
she characterizes as a grave injustice is as easily characterized as a lack of
diligence. The superior court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the appeal,
or in refusing to reinstate it. See Cowitz v. Alaska Workers' Comp. Bd., 721 P.2d
635, 638 n.2 (Alaska 1986) (reviewing superior court's dismissal of administrative
appeal for lack of prosecution under Rule 511.5 for abuse of discretion).