8 NICS App. 32, NEFF v. PORT SUSAN CAMPING CLUB (December 2007)




Paul and Joan Neff, Appellants,


Port Susan Camping Club, Appellee.

No. TUL-CV-GC-2005-0368, 0390 (December 10, 2007)


Following remand of its original order, trial court issued supplemental findings of fact and conclusions of law, ruling that a private association had followed proper procedures in terminating a membership, and that the record contained substantive evidence supporting the association’s decision. Court of Appeals holds that trial court’s reference to the record as a whole, without citation to specific evidence in the record, does not provide a basis for the Court of Appeals to affirm the trial court. Matter remanded for entry of findings citing specific evidence in the record for support.

Before:            Jane Smith, Chief Justice; Robert Anderson, Justice; Douglas Nash, Justice.

Appearances:  Cory D. Rein for Appellants; Larry M. Trivet for Appellee.


Anderson, J.:

This is the second appeal in this case.** The underlying facts are set forth in an Opinion and Order dated November 16, 2006 (Neff I). There were two issues before the court in the prior appeal. “First, was the September 8, 2005 verbal agreement a legally binding contract that would govern the terms of Mr. Neff’s continued membership in Port Susan? Second, if not, was Port Susan’s action terminating Mr. Neff’s membership valid? Neff I, Opinion and Order at 3. We answered the first question in the negative and remanded the matter to the trial court for a determination of the “Neffs’ challenge to the September termination of Mr. Neff’s

8 NICS App. 32, NEFF v. PORT SUSAN CAMPING CLUB (December 2007) p. 33

membership[.]” Id. At 7. We applied state law in making our determination since tribal Ordinance 72 grants the tribal court jurisdiction to resolve disputes involving Port Susan and its members and incorporates state law “to the extent not inconsistent with other tribal law provisions.” Ord. 72, § 2.

On remand, the trial court issued “Supplemental Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” on March 27, 2007. The trial court concluded that Port Susan had followed the proper procedure for termination of Mr. Neff’s membership and referenced material in the record sufficient to support its conclusion in finding 4. We agree that Port Susan followed the proper procedures. It provided notice as required by the bylaws, identified the sections of the bylaws allegedly violated and held a hearing at which Mr. Neff was permitted to present evidence. The fact that Mr. Neff was not permitted to review some of the underlying documents in advance of the hearing does not make the process defective. There is no requirement for the exchange of documents in the bylaws and Mr. Neff was in fact given a chance to review the documents on the day of the hearing. Appellant Neff’s Opening Brief at 12. Mr. Neff was represented by counsel and permitted to argue his case. Courts will not add procedural requirements to the bylaws of social organizations. Nor will we disturb the trial court’s determination that the hearing was fair. Cf., Garvey v. Seattle Tennis Club, 808 P.2d 1155, 1157-58 (Wash. App. 1991).

In finding 8, the trial court found that the “trial record contains substantive evidence supporting Port Susan’s decision to terminate Mr. Neff’s membership in the Club.” That finding, however, does not point to any specific evidence in the record. A court of appeals cannot affirm a factual finding such as this without trial court findings that point to supporting evidence in the record.

[Washington courts] review a trial court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law in two steps. First we review findings of fact under a “substantial evidence standard, defined as a quantum of evidence sufficient to persuade a rational fair-minded person the premise is true.” Sunnyside Valley Irrigation Dist. V. Dickle, 149 Wash.2d 873, 879, 73 P.3d 369 (2003). Applying this deferential standard, we view all reasonable inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party. Sunderland Family Treatment Servs. v. City of Pasco, 127 Wash.2d 782, 788, 903 P.2d 986 (1995). Where there is substantial evidence, we will not substitute our judgment for that of the trial court even though we might have resolved a factual dispute differently. Sunnyside, 149 Wash.2d at 879-80, 73 P.3d 369. Second, we determine whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law. Landmark Dev., Inc, v. City of Roy, 138 Wash.2d 561, 573, 980 P.2d 1234 (1999). We review the conclusions de novo. Sunnyside, 149 Wash. 2d at 880, 75 P.3d 369.

Korst v. McMahon, 148 P.3d 1081, 1083 (Wash. App. 2006). Without findings of fact that point to the record in support of the trial court’s conclusion in finding 8, we are unable to

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affirm the determination that Port Susan had “good cause” to terminate Mr. Neff’s membership. We accordingly remand in order for the trial court to enter findings with references and citations to the evidence in the trial record in support of its finding 8.

Upon entry of the findings and transmittal to this panel by the court clerk, we will proceed to review the decision on the merits . Because we have not resolved the entire case on appeal, we will not address the attorney’s fees issue at this time.


The syllabus is not a part of the Court’s Opinion.  The syllabus is a summary of the Opinion prepared by the publishers of this Reporter only for the convenience of the reader.  Therefore, the syllabus should not be cited in whole or part as legal authority.  Only the Opinion, which follows the syllabus, may be cited as legal authority.


Reporter’s Note: The opinion for the first appeal is reported at 7 NICS App. 138. The final opinion (“Neff III”) is reported at 8 NICS App. 55.