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In this opinion, the Supreme Court explained its reasoning for its previously issued orders affirming the trial court’s rulings that the Proposition 127, Renewable Energy Standards Initiative qualified for the November 2018 ballot. At issue was a political action committee’s (Committee) organization formation, the adequacy of the title of the Initiative, and whether the trial court erred in finding a sufficient number of valid petition signatures to support placement of Proposition 127 on the ballot. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiffs may not contest the validity of the Initiative based on the statement of the Committee’s alleged non-compliance with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-906(B); (2) the Initiative’s title was legally sufficient; and (3) the trial court’s finding that there were a sufficient number of signatures required to place the Initiative on the ballot was not in error. View "Leach v. Reagan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the municipal court that the anti-marital fact privilege precluded H.C. from testifying about Defendant’s driving under the influence (DUI) charges, holding that H.C. could testify about the DUI charges under the crime exception to the anti-marital fact privilege. Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-4062(1). Defendant was charged with criminal damage, domestic violence, and three counts of DUI. Defendant successfully moved to preclude H.C. from testifying about the DUI charges and to sever those charges from the criminal damage charge based on the anti-marital fact privilege. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that when a defendant is charged for committing a crime against his or her spouse, the crime exception to the anti-marital fact privilege allows the witness-spouse to testify regarding not only that charge but also any charges arising from the same unitary event. View "Phoenix City Prosecutor v. Honorable Laura Lowery" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership (Snowbowl) and the City of Flagstaff on the public nuisance claim brought by the Hopi Tribe, holding that environmental damage to public land with religious, cultural or emotional significance to the plaintiff is not special injury for purposes of the public nuisance doctrine. The Tribe brought a claim of public nuisance based on Snowbowl's use of reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking on Northern Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks. At issue was whether the Hopi sufficiently alleged a “special injury” for an actionable public nuisance claim. The Tribe alleged that it would suffer special injury by the interference with the Tribe’s cultural use of the public wilderness for religious and ceremonial purposes. The trial court ruled that the Tribe failed to satisfy the special injury requirement on the basis of religious or cultural practices. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that while the Tribe sufficiently alleged that the use of reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks constituted a public nuisance the Tribe failed to articulate any harm beyond that suffered by the general public. View "Hopi Tribe v. Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court explained the reasons for its prior decision order disqualifying the “Stop Political Dirty Money Amendment” (the Initiative) from the November 2018 general election ballot, holding that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-118(C), which invalidates any petition signatures obtained by a registered circulator subpoenaed in an election challenge who fails to appear for trial, is constitutional. After the Outlaw Dirty Money political committee (Committee) filed signature petitions with the Secretary of State to qualify the Initiative for the November 2018 ballot, Petitioners filed a complaint pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-118(D) challenging the validity of certain petitions based on objections to petition circulators. Later, the Committee filed a complaint claiming that the Secretary erroneously removed certain petition sheets and signatures during her review and subpoenaed fifteen circulators requiring their appearance at an evidentiary hearing. None of the subpoenaed circulators appeared at the hearing. The trial court subsequently disqualified the non-appearing subpoenaed circulators’ petition signatures, a ruling that rendered the Initiative ineligible for the November 2018 ballot. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 19-118 fosters the integrity of the initiative process and does so by reasonable means; and (2) therefore, section 19-118(C)’s disqualification provision is constitutional on its face and as applied. View "Stanwitz v. Reagan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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In this opinion, the Supreme Court explained its ruling that House Concurrent Resolution 2007 (HCR 2007) does not violate the constitutional “single subject rule,” holding that because the two provisions of HCR 2007 are reasonably related to one general subject, the measure satisfies the single subject rule. Challengers filed suit requesting the trial court to enjoin the Secretary of State from placing HCR 2007 on the ballot, alleging that the measure violated the single subject rule contained in Ariz. Const. art. IV, part 2. Relying on Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry v. Kiley, 242 Ariz. 533 (2017), the trial court concluded that the rule does not apply to HCR 2007. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) measures referred to the people by the legislature are “acts” subject to the single subject rule; and (2) HCR 2007 satisfied the single subject rule. View "Hoffman v. Reagan" on Justia Law

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In this opinion, the Supreme Court explained the reasons for its prior order disqualifying the “Invest in Education Act” initiative from the November 2018 election ballot, holding that the initiative’s description was fatally flawed because it did not comply with the requirements of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-102(A). The proposed initiative would increase K-12 education funding and raise certain income tax rates to support it. When Petitioners sought to invalidate the initiative, the superior court ruled that the initiative was eligible for the ballot. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the initiative’s proponents did not comply with the requirements of section 19-102(A) because their description of the initiative’s principal provisions omitted material provisions and failed adequately to inform those who signed petitions to place the measure on the ballot about what they were signing. View "Molera v. Reagan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

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After granting the State’s motion to conduct a new independent review of Defendant’s two death sentences, the Supreme Court affirmed the sentences, holding that there was no error in the trial court’s findings of aggravation and mitigation and that the death sentence was not an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court previously affirmed Defendant’s sentences on independent review. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Court applied an unconstitutional “causal nexus” test to Defendant’s mitigation evidence. Upon conducting a new independent review of Defendant’s death sentences, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the mitigating evidence was not sufficiently substantial to warrant leniency and that the aggravators weighed heavily in favor of the death sentence. View "State v. McKinney" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of first degree murder, discharge of a firearm at a structure, and misconduct involving weapons and sentences of death for the murder and concurrent prison sentences for the remaining convictions to be served consecutively to the death sentence. The Court held (1) the trial court did not err by failing to sue sponte sever the misconduct-involving-weapons charge; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion during voir dire; (3) there was no error in the jury instructions; (4) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to vacate judgment without holding an evidentiary hearing; (5) the cumulative effect of any instances of prosecutorial misconduct during trial did not render it unfair; and (6) the death sentence was not an abuse of discretion. View "State v. Valenzuela" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s drug-related convictions and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the admission and pervasive use of drug-courier profile evidence during Defendant's trial constituted fundamental error and prejudiced Defendant’s ability to receive a fair trial. The court of appeals affirmed Defendant’s drug-related convictions and sentences, reviewing for fundamental error whether the trial court correctly admitted the drug-courier profile evidence and hearsay statements. The Supreme Court granted review to clarify what a defendant must show to establish fundamental, prejudicial error. The Court held that to show fundamental error, a defendant must demonstrate that the error goes to the foundation of his case, takes away a right essential to the defense, or is of such magnitude that it denied the defendant a fair trial. To warrant reversal, the defendant must then show prejudice, but if the trial was unfair, prejudice is automatically established. In the instant case, the Court held that Defendant’s trial was infected with fundamental, prejudicial error that deprived him of a fair trial. View "State v. Escalante" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this termination of parental rights case, the Supreme Court held that juvenile courts must consider the totality of the circumstances existing at the time of a parental severance determination, including the child’s adoptability and the parent’s rehabilitation, in determining whether severance is in the best interests of the child for purposes of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-533(B). The juvenile court in this case severed Mother’s parental rights to her two children. Mother appealed, challenging the juvenile court’s best-interests finding. The court of appeals vacated the juvenile court’s order, concluding that the record supporting the best-interests determination was insubstantial. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and affirmed the juvenile court’s judgment terminating Mother’s parental rights, holding that the court of appeals erred in its best-interests analysis and that sufficient evidence supported the juvenile court’s best-interests finding. View "Alma S. v. Department of Child Safety" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law