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CHEEK v. WASHINGTON

July 26, 1971

Johnny F. CHEEK, Plaintiff,
v.
Walter E. WASHINGTON et al., Defendants



Per Curiam

This matter came on for hearing on plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and defendants' motion to dismiss for want of subject-matter jurisdiction. The complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief premised upon the asserted unconstitutionality under Fifth Amendment due process of 40 D.C. Code § 437 (1967 ed.), which is part of the Motor Safety Responsibility Act of 1954. Specifically, that statute was alleged to be invalid to the extent that it requires, without prior hearing or determination of fault, suspension of drivers' permits and auto registrations upon a mere finding of involvement in an accident causing more than $100 damages and that the person so involved is either uninsured, unable to post security, or unable to obtain a release from the other parties.

Plaintiff was, pendente lite, permitted to retain his driving privileges by virtue of consent preliminary injunction which was entered shortly after the hearing. The terms of the injunction were that final disposition on the merits of the complaint could be made on the record as it then stood; and there was also reserved for determination on its merits the defendants' jurisdictional challenge. While the case was under submission in this manner, the Supreme Court handed down a decision which, although involving the Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act of Georgia, appears to establish the merits of plaintiff's constitutional claim as against the District of Columbia Act. *fn1" Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 91 S. Ct. 1586, 29 L. Ed. 2d 90 (1971). Under it the defendants would seem to have no alternative but to alter the procedures of which plaintiff complains; and his lawsuit has, as a practical matter, lost its immediacy.

 The disposition we now make of this case, however, reflects the conclusions we have reached on the jurisdictional issues raised by defendants' motion to dismiss, as distinct from the merits of plaintiff's Fifth Amendment claim. The facts relevant to the former are as follows: When plaintiff was notified that his permit and registration were subject to suspension under the District of Columbia Act, he appealed this action to the Board of Appeals and Review of the Department of Motor Vehicles. That agency, after hearing, upheld the order of suspension. At that time there had become effective the District of Columbia Administrative Procedure Act. 1 D.C. Code §§ 1501 et seq. (1967 ed. Supp. IV, 1971). Section 1510 of that statute provides for direct review as of right by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals of the orders of administrative agencies which are a part of the D.C. Government. The Congressional purpose to make that review normally exclusive seems clear; and it is one we are bound to respect. *fn2"

 Thus, as of the time the suspension of plaintiff's permit became final and effective, by reason of the decision of the Board of Review, plaintiff's avenue of further relief was by petition for review in the DCCA. In any such review he could have raised and had determined the constitutional claims which he advances here. *fn3"

 Whether the matter be regarded in terms of an absolute want of jurisdiction or the undesirability of exercising under these circumstances the equitable jurisdiction which plaintiff invokes, we think the motion ...


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