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Administrative Law | Law | Workers' Compensation Law


Reprinted with permission from the Missouri Law Review, Vol. 78, No. 3:


This paper considers the serious threat to effective operation of administrative law in Missouri resulting from the Missouri Supreme Court’s abrupt change in analysis of administrative agencies’ jurisdiction. The court enunciated its analysis in primarily two decisions handed down in 2009, J.C.W. v. Wyciskalla and McCracken v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. The paper explores the Supreme Court’s attempt to chart a “simple” approach to distinguishing jurisdictional adjudicatory rules from non-jurisdictional adjudicatory rules and the serious threat posed by the court’s applying this analysis to statutes governing the authority of administrative agencies.

By deciding that exclusive administrative remedies, such as workers’ compensation, are not jurisdictional issues, the Supreme Court has created the potential for plaintiffs to evade exclusive administrative remedies in contravention of the General Assembly’s inherent legislative authority. This possibility emerges because, if the exclusive remedy is not jurisdictional, the legislature’s mandate of exclusivity will be enforced, if at all, only by the parties. The courts can enforce only jurisdictional rules sua sponte. Of more concern is that the Supreme Court’s position opens the potential that, as the circuit courts adjudicate matters previously in the exclusive purview of administrative agencies, a dual, contradictory line of cases will emerge. This would surely result in unacceptable forum shopping and blunt administrative agencies’ effectiveness.

This paper probes in detail the Supreme Court’s analysis of jurisdiction in J.C.W. and McCracken that led to its deeming exclusive administrative remedies to be non-jurisdictional. It questions the court’s assertion that such administrative remedies as workers’ compensation truly impinge on the circuit courts’ subject matter jurisdiction. It sets out suggestions for alternative analysis, consistent with sound legal principles, that would permit the court to preserve simultaneously the circuits’ subject matter jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of the administrative agencies. It endeavors to show how restraints on the adjudicatory process can be harmonious with, and not diminishing of, the circuit courts’ subject matter jurisdiction.