≡ Menu

Michelle Williams v. Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, 2010 WI App 14

court of appeals decision

Appellate Standard of Review, Certiorari

¶9        When we review an application for a writ of certiorari, we review the agency’s decision, not the decision of the circuit court.  Kraus v. City of Waukesha Police & Fire Comm’n, 2003 WI 51, ¶10, 261 Wis. 2d 485, 662 N.W.2d 294.  The scope of certiorari review is limited to whether the Housing Authority:  (1) kept within its jurisdiction; (2) proceeded on a correct theory of law; (3) was arbitrary, oppressive, or unreasonable; or (4) might reasonably have made the order or finding based on the evidence.  See id.

¶10      In seeking certiorari review, Williams challenged whether the Housing Authority’s decision was arbitrary, oppressive, or unreasonable; and whether the Housing Authority reasonably made the order based on the evidence.  Both questions require us to determine whether the Housing Authority’s decision is founded on sufficient evidence.  See State ex rel. Harris v. Annuity & Pension Bd., 87 Wis. 2d 646, 651-52, 275 N.W.2d 668 (1979).  “The sufficiency of evidence on review by common law certiorari is identical to the substantial evidence test used for the review of administrative determinations under [Wis. Stat.] ch. 227.”  Harris, 87 Wis. 2d at 652.  “Under this standard a court does not pass on questions of credibility, nor does it weigh the evidence.  The test is whether the evidence reasonably supports the decision.” Id.  If we conclude that the Housing Authority’s decision is not supported by sufficient evidence, we may overturn it.  Cf. Village of Menomonee Falls v. Wisconsin DNR, 140 Wis. 2d 579, 594, 412 N.W.2d 505 (Ct. App. 1987).

Administrative Decision Based on Uncorroborated Hearsay

¶13      The circuit court reversed the Housing Authority’s denial of rent assistance because it concluded that, under Gehin v. Wisconsin Group Insurance Board, 2005 WI 16, 278 Wis. 2d 111, 692 N.W.2d 572, the Housing Authority could not base its decision solely on uncorroborated hearsay evidence (the officer’s written notes recalling the witness’s statement of what Williams said), and therefore, the Housing Authority lacked sufficient evidence on which to base its denial.  We agree.

¶14      Uncorroborated hearsay evidence, even if admissible, does not by itself constitute substantial evidence.  Id., 278 Wis. 2d 111, ¶8 (citing Folding Furniture Works, Inc. v. Wisconsin LRB, 232 Wis. 170, 189, 285 N.W. 851 (1939)).  Adherence to this rule is premised on hearsay’s innate lack of reliability.  See id., ¶58.  “Substantial evidence has been defined … as ‘that quantity and quality of evidence which a reasonable [person] could accept as adequate to support a conclusion.’”  Id., ¶48.  Substantial evidence must include something “more than ‘a mere scintilla’ of evidence and more than ‘conjecture and speculation.’”  Id. (citations omitted).

Hearsay, to be sure, is admissible at an administrative proceeding, the point being that ultimately more is required, ¶¶15-24.

Appellate Procedure