Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Ordinarily, the construction and interpretation of a statute is a question of law for the courts where the administrative decision is not entitled to special deference, particularly where the statute has not previously been subjected to judicial scrutiny or time-tested agency interpretations.
Defendant, Connecticut Board of Examiners in Podiatry, issued a ruling that the practice of podiatry included the treatment of ankle ailments. Plaintiffs, the Connecticut State Medical Society and Enzo Sella, M.D., appealed from the board's ruling, pursuant to General Statutes § 4-183 (a). The defendant moved to dismiss the appeal on the ground that the plaintiffs failed to allege sufficient facts from which aggrievement could be found. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The plaintiff appealed, and the court set aside the judgment and remanded the case. On remand, the trial court found that the plaintiffs were aggrieved and sustained their administrative appeal. The trial court acknowledged that the board, as an agency within the meaning of General Statutes § 4-166 (1), may properly issue declaratory rulings, pursuant to § 4-176, predicated on its interpretation of statutes made for its guidance and which it was charged with administering. It noted, however, that such an agency must act strictly within its statutory authority and cannot modify, abridge or otherwise change the statutory provisions under which it acquired authority. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in concluding that its declaratory ruling served to expand the ambit of podiatry practice as set forth in § 20-50.
Did the trial court err in concluding that the defendant’s declaratory ruling served to expand the ambit of podiatry practice as set forth in § 20-50?
The court held that the trial court applied the correct standard of review in determining that, as a matter of law, the board had erroneously construed Conn. Gen. Stat. § 20-50. The court found that the board could issue declaratory rulings but could not modify or otherwise change the statutory provisions under which it acquired authority. The court also held that the statutory construction of § 20-50 was a question of law on which an agency ruling was not entitled to special deference. The court determined that "foot" had a well-accepted and common meaning that did not include the ankle. The court therefore found that the board's ruling impermissibly expanded the ambit of podiatry practice beyond that envisioned by the legislature. The trial court's decision reversing the board's ruling was sustained.