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Mccormick & Schmick Restaurant Corp. v. District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 8, 2016

McCormick & Schmick Restaurant Corporation, Petitioner,
v.
District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Respondent.

          Submitted June 17, 2016

         Petition for Review of a Decision of the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (CMP-94-14)

          Stephen J. O'Brien and Matthew T. Minora were on the brief for petitioner.

          Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General, and James C. McKay, Jr., Senior Assistant Attorney General, were on the brief for respondent.

          Before Fisher and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Steadman, Senior Judge.

         JUDGMENT

         This case was submitted to the court on the transcript of record and the briefs, and without presentation of oral argument. On consideration whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that petitioner's June 14, 2014, offense should not be enhanced pursuant to § 25-781 (f), and the case is remanded so that the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board ("Board") so that the Board may impose the appropriate penalty for a first violation.

          OPINION

          John R. Fisher. Associate Judge.

         On August 5, 2015, the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board ("Board") found that petitioner McCormick & Schmick Restaurant Corp. served alcohol to minors on June 14, 2014, in violation of D.C. Code § 25-781 (a) (2012 Repl.). Because petitioner had previously served alcohol to a minor on May 18, 2012, the Board treated petitioner as a repeat offender and imposed an enhanced penalty.[1] Petitioner challenges the sanction, arguing that its May 2012 violation occurred beyond the "temporal limit" for counting past violations. The Board contends the violation does fall within the statute's two-year "look-back" period (which the parties agree runs backwards from June 14, 2014), because the previous violation was not adjudicated until August 10, 2012.[2] We agree with petitioner.

         Generally, "[t]his court will accord considerable weight to an agency's construction of the statutes . . . that it administers where the meaning of the language is not clear on its face." Levelle, Inc. v. District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Bd., 924 A.2d 1030, 1035 (D.C. 2007). When interpreting statutory language, this court "read[s] the language of the statute and construe[s] its words according to their ordinary sense and plain meaning." Mallof v. District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Bd., 43 A.3d 916, 918 (D.C. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, "[s]tatutory interpretation is a holistic endeavor, " Baltimore v. District of Columbia, 10 A.3d 1141, 1146 (D.C. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted), and "[w]e [thus] consider not only the bare meaning of the word[s] but also [their] placement and purpose in the statutory scheme." Tippett v. Daly, 10 A.3d 1123, 1127 (D.C. 2010) (en banc) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         "If the statute is ambiguous, however, we must defer to the agency's interpretation of the statutory language so long as it is reasonable." Pannell-Pringle v. District of Columbia Dep't of Emp't Servs., 806 A.2d 209, 211 (D.C. 2002) (emphasis added); see Cathedral Park Condo. Comm. v. District of Columbia Zoning Comm'n, 743 A.2d 1231, 1239 (D.C. 2000) (we will defer unless the agency interpretation is "unreasonable or in contravention of the language or legislative history of the statute"). Ultimately, "the judiciary is the final authority on issues of statutory construction[, ]" (internal quotation marks omitted), and "[w]e review the legal conclusions of an agency de novo." Levelle, Inc., 924 A.2d at 1035-36.

         D.C. Code § 25-781 (f), the graduated penalty provision at issue in this case, reads as follows:

(f) Upon finding that a licensee has violated subsections (a), (b), or (c) of this section in ...

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