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An order granting or denying a motion filed pursuant to Rule 85(A) of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure is a special order made after final judgment under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-2101(A)(2), which confers jurisdiction on the court of appeals to decide whether the ruling was correct. Petitioner filed a motion pursuant to Rule 85(A) to correct a clerical error in a judgment. Specifically, Petitioner moved to replace a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) with one that complied with the dissolution decree between him and his wife. The family court denied the motion, concluding that the decree and QDRO were clear and unambiguous because no appeal had been taken. Petitioner appealed. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that Petitioner’s motion failed to assert any issues that could not have been raised in a timely appeal from the QDRO. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ decision, holding that the court of appeals had jurisdiction to decide whether the family court correctly denied Petitioner’s Rule 85(A) motion. View "Vincent v. Shanovich" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to the provision in Ariz. Rev. Stat. 36-2901.08(A) that the director of Arizona’s indigent health care program, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), “shall establish, administer and collect an assessment” from Arizona hospitals (the hospital assessment). The legislature added this provision to fund the costs remaining after federal monies to expand coverage under AHCCCS, as provided for in H.B. 2010, which the legislature enacted in 2013 by a simple majority vote. The Supreme Court held that the hospital assessment is not subject to Ariz. Const. art. IX, 22, which generally requires that acts providing for a net increase in state revenues be approved by a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature, because the exception set forth in Ariz. Const. art. IX, 22(C)(2) that the above requirement does not apply to statutorily authorized assessments that “are not prescribed by formula, amount or limit, and are set by a state officer or agency” applied in this case. View "Biggs v. Betlach" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for first degree murder but vacated his death sentence and remanded for a new penalty phase proceeding in order to comply with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Lynch v. Arizona, 578 U.S. __ (2016) ("Lynch II"). Defendant, an inmate, killed the victim, another inmate, while the two men were in their cell. The court held (1) the trial court did not commit fundamental error by electing testimony about a statement Defendant made to a corrections officer through a juror’s question; (2) the trial court acted within its discretion by finding that the probative value of graphic photos admitted into evidence was not outweighed by any prejudicial effect; (3) sufficient evidence existed for a jury to find that Defendant murdered the victim in an especially heinous or depraved manner; (4) Lynch II compels the conclusion that the trial court erred by failing to tell the jury that Defendant was ineligible for parole, and the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (5) the jury did not abuse its discretion in imposing the death penalty. View "State v. Rushing" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, Petitioner, who was charged with sex offenses and released with several pretrial release conditions, argued that the conditions were improper. The Supreme Court held (1) the Arizona Constitution, statutes, and rules authorize the trial court to impose upon Petitioner pretrial release conditions requiring that he reside apart from his family and that he have no unsupervised contact with his minor non-victim children; these conditions, however, must comply with Ariz. R. Crim. P. 7.2(a) and 7.3(b), which require release conditions to be “the least onerous” that are “reasonable and necessary to protect other persons or the community”; and (2) Neither Arizona law nor the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution require a trial court to hold an evidentiary hearing to impose or reconsider a pretrial release condition; however, the trial court must make an individualized determination supported by findings sufficient for appellate review concerning whether the pretrial release conditions are the least onerous measures reasonable and necessary to protect Petitioner’s children. View "Samiuddin v. Honorable Richard Nothwehr" on Justia Law

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At issue in this medical malpractice action was Ariz. R. Evid. 615 and the proper remedy for technical Rule 615 violations. Rule 615 generally provides that a trial court, at a party’s request, must order witnesses excluded so that they cannot hear other witnesses’ testimony. The Supreme Court held that Rule 615, when invoked, prohibits a party from providing prospective trial witnesses with transcripts of prior witnesses’ trial testimony. The court further held (1) a violation of this prohibition is not presumptively prejudicial in a civil action, but even when no prejudice is shown, the trial court must take some corrective action by fashioning an appropriate remedy under the circumstances; and (2) although expert witnesses are not automatically exempt from the Rule, a trial court must permit a witness to hear (or read) a prior witness’s testimony if a party shows that such an exception is essential to that party’s claim or defense. View "Spring v. Bradford" on Justia Law

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In a medical malpractice action, a defendant may move for summary judgment based on a proposed expert’s lack of required qualifications under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-2604 without first challenging the sufficiency of the expert affidavit under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-2603. Further, an expert is unqualified to testify on standard of care pursuant to section 12-2604 if she did not engage in active clinical practice or teaching during the year immediately preceding the injury. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant after ruling that Plaintiff was permitted to introduce expert opinion on standard of care or causation under section 12-2604. The court of appeals concluded that Plaintiff’s expert was not qualified as a standard-of-care expert and affirmed the grant of summary judgment on this basis alone. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals in part and remanded the case, holding (1) the court of appeals properly found that Plaintiff’s expert was unqualified to provide expert standard-of-care testimony; and (2) because the court of appeals did not decide whether Plaintiff’s expert was qualified as a causation expert and whether causation testimony was legally necessary, this case must be remanded to the court of appeals to address those issues in the first instance. View "Rasor v. Northwest Hospital, LLC" on Justia Law

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Only the second requirement of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-3822(A) that registered sex offenders must “register as a transient not less than every ninety days” if the person “does not have an address or a permanent place of residence” applies to transient individuals. Defendant was convicted of failing to satisfy the first requirement of the statute, which requires that registered sex offenders register a new residence or address within seventy-two hours of becoming homeless. Defendant became homeless after leaving a halfway house. Defendant appealed, arguing that a homeless person, by definition, cannot inform the sheriff of a new residence or address because he has none, and therefore, only the transient registration requirement applies. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that transient sex offenders are not required to notify the sheriff of a new residence within seventy-two hours of becoming homeless. View "State v. Burbey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Enhanced sentences may not be imposed under the dangerous crimes against children (DCAC) statute when a defendant commits a crime against a fictitious child. Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of solicitation to commit molestation of a child for speaking to a woman about allowing him to engage in sexual acts with her two young children, who were actually fictitious. Defendant’s crimes were classified as DCAC, and he was sentenced to lifetime probation on each count in accordance with the DCAC sentencing statute. Defendant later moved, without success, to dismiss the DCAC designation and then brought a special action in the court of appeals. The court of appeals upheld the trial court, concluding that DCAC sentencing applies to convictions for solicitation to commit molestation of a child when the victim is fictitious. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and reversed the trial court’s order denying Defendant’s request to dismiss the DCAC designation, holding that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-705(P)(1) requires an actual child victim for DCAC enhanced sentences to apply to the enumerated offenses. View "Wright v. Honorable Pamela Gates" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Failure to register with the Arizona putative fathers registry is a statutory ground for severing a father’s parental rights, and putative fathers must comply with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-106.01 to avoid severance pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-533(B)(6). Frank R.’s parental rights were terminated because he did not register with the putative fathers registry. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the juvenile court had correctly applied section 8-533(B)(6). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) compliance with section 8-106.01 may not be excused to allow the father to avoid severance under section 8-533(B)(6); and (2) because Frank did not register, despite having the opportunity and time do so, the juvenile court did not err when it severed his parental rights. View "Frank R. v. Mother Goose Adoptions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Neither Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-4041(B) nor Ariz. R. Crim. P. 32.5 requires a trial court to determine whether an Ariz. R. Crim. P. 32 petitioner is competent before proceeding and ruling on a state post-conviction relief (PCR) proceeding. After a new penalty phase trial, Petitioner was sentenced to death for first degree murder. Petitioner later brought a Rule 32 proceeding. Petitioner then moved the superior court to conduct a hearing to determine competency and to stay all PCR proceedings until the court found him competent, arguing that section 13-4041(B) and Rule 32.5 establish a defendant’s right to competency during PCR proceedings. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a convicted capital defendant is not entitled under Arizona’s statutes or rules to a competency determination in PCR proceedings. View "Fitzgerald v. Honorable Sam Myers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law