Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

by
The plain language of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 3-1261(B), which provides that no two brands of the same design or figure shall be adopted or recorded, precluded the Arizona Department of Agriculture (Department) from recording “two brands of the same design or figure” regardless of their location. The Department in this case allowed Eureka Springs to record a “bar seven” brand, even though it was identical to a previously recorded brand owned by David Stambaugh, because it was placed on a different location on the cattle. Stambaugh sued the Department. The superior court granted summary judgment in part for the Department, concluding that section 3-1261 gave the Department discretion to consider the location of a brand on an animal in determining whether two brands are of the same design or figure. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that section 3-1261(B) is ambiguous. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statute was unambiguous and precluded the Department from adopting or recording identical brands. View "Stambaugh v. Killian" on Justia Law

by
In this case involving substantial consequences for alleged violations of campaign finance laws, the same individual issued the initial decision finding violations and ordering remedies, participated personally in the prosecution of the case before an administrative law judge, and then made the final agency decision that would receive only deferential review. The court of appeals concluded that because Appellants made no showing of actual bias their due process rights were not violated by the individual’s role as both advocate and adjudicator. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals, holding that, although Appellants did not allege actual bias, the circumstances of this case deprived them of due process, as Appellants were entitled to a determination by a neutral decisionmaker. Remanded. View "Horne v. Polk" on Justia Law

by
The Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) operates a defined-benefit plan for state employees and participating political subdivisions. The City of Chandler operated a deferred-compensation plan in which it contributed money for its employees and permitted employees to defer additional amounts, which were held in trust until distributed to employees, generally at age seventy and one-half. Mary Wade and Marla Paddock, City employees, filed a complaint against ASRS and others on behalf of themselves, arguing that City-contributed payments into the deferred-compensation-plan trust constituted “compensation” for the purpose of calculating ASRS contributions and benefits. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the City. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the term “salary” included the City’s regular contributions to the deferred-compensation-plan. The Supreme Court largely affirmed, holding that the City’s contractually required contributions into the deferred-compensation-plan trust for the benefit of its employees formed part of their salary and was “compensation” under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 38-711(7). View "Wade v. Arizona State Retirement System" on Justia Law

by
Arizona Water Company (AWC), a utility company, sought a rate increase and proposed a step-increase mechanism that would allow the Arizona Corporation Commission to adjust rates between full rate cases. The rate increase mechanism, called the system improvements benefit (SIB), would allow AWC to petition for a rate increase between rate cases to help AWC recoup the cost of newly-completed infrastructure projects. The Commission approved the SIB mechanism with some modifications. The court of appeals vacated the Commission’s approval of the SIB mechanism, concluding that the SIB mechanism did not comply with the state Constitution’s mandate that “the Commission determine a public service corporation’s fair value when setting rates[.]” The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and affirmed the Commission’s orders approving the SIB mechanism, holding that the SIB mechanism complied with the Constitution’s mandate that the Commission determine the fair value of a utility’s property when setting rates. View "Residential Util. Consumer Office v. Arizona Corp. Comm’n" on Justia Law

by
Freeport Minerals Corporation (Freeport) filed applications with the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) to sever certain water rights appurtenant to land in Mohave County and transfer them to a wellfield to be used at a mining complex in Yavapai county. As required by Ariz. Rev. Stat. 45-172(A)(7), ADWR published notice of Freeport’s severance and transfer applications, stating that “any interested person” could file written objections. Mohave County filed objections. ADWR rejected the County’s objections. The superior court vacated ADWR’s final decision on the grounds that it was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court and affirmed ADWR’s final decision, holding (1) section 45-172 defines the only grounds on which ADWR can deny a properly filed application to sever and transfer a water right; (2) the “interested persons” entitled to object to a proposed severance and transfer are limited to those with an interest that is protected by section 45-172; and (3) ADWR in this case properly denied the County’s objections to the proposed transfers because those objections did not identify any violation of section 45-172 and because the County did not qualify as an “interested person.” View "Ariz. Dep’t of Water Res. v. Hon. Crane McClennen" on Justia Law

by
Charles Stenz suffered a workplace injury. His employer’s insurance carrier, Pinnacle Risk Management, accepted Stenz’s claim and paid the benefits. Stenz subsequently died, and his widow, Elizabeth Stenz, filed a claim for death benefits. An administrative law judge (ALJ) upheld the denial. The court of appeals set aside the award. The ALJ eventually awarded death benefits and, almost four years after Elizabeth filed her claim, entered a final order affirming the award. Pinnacle paid the benefits dating back to Stenz’s death but did not pay interest on the unpaid benefits. The ALJ concluded that no interest was owed on the death benefit before the award became final. The court of appeals set this ruling aside, concluding that the claim was liquidated as of the date Pinnacle received notice of it. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and set aside the ALJ’s award, holding that a claim for death benefits filed pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 23-1046 is a liquidated claim, and interest is owed on the claim from the date on which the carrier receives notice that a survivor has filed a claim with the Industrial Commission. View "Stenz v. Indus. Comm’n of Ariz." on Justia Law

by
Linda Bell was injured at her job and underwent surgery for her injury seventeen months later. Bell requested temporary partial disability (TPD) compensation to reimburse her for the sick leave and vacation time she had used following her injury and before her surgery. The Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) denied the request on the ground that Bell did not had not taken time off work during the time period for which benefits were requested and that she did not miss any period of time over one week. The court of appeals affirmed on the ground that Bell failed to prove she had satisfied the waiting period created by Ariz. Rev. Stat. 23-1062(B). The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and set aside the ICA award, holding (1) the waiting period for compensation set forth in section 23-1062(B) applies to claims for all types of disability including both TPD benefits and temporary total disability (TTD) benefits; and (2) section 23-1062(B) does not require proof of an initial period of TTD but does require proof of seven consecutive calendar days of some type of work-related disability before an injured employee becomes entitled to compensation for any type of disability. View "Bell v. Indus. Comm’n of Ariz." on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case was whether a juvenile court can delegate discretion to the Arizona Department of Economic Security (ADES) to return a dependent child to his or her parents without first determining that return is in the child’s best interests. The juvenile court concluded that ADES has the discretion to determine when it serves a dependent child’s best interests to be returned to the child’s parent or guardian. The Supreme Court vacated the juvenile court’s order, holding (1) a juvenile court must specifically determine that return of a dependent child to his or her parents is in the child’s best interests before ordering the return; and (2) the juvenile court in this case erred by granting discretion to ADES to place dependent children with their parents without a prior judicial determination that reunification was in the children’s best interests. View "Alexander M. v. Hon. Lisa Abrams" on Justia Law

by
In 1985, the Arizona Legislature established the Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan (“Plan”), which provides pension benefits for elected officials, including judges. Ariz. Rev. Stat. 38-818 establishes a formula for calculating pension benefit increased for retired members of the Plan. In 2011, the Legislature enacted S.B. 1609, which modified the formula set forth in section 38-818. Two retired judges, on behalf of themselves and as representatives of a class of retired Plan members and beneficiaries, sued the Plan and its board members, alleging that S.B. 1609 violated Ariz. Const. art. 29, 1(C). The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs, concluding that S.B. 1609 violated Article 29, 1(C)’s prohibition against the diminishment or impairment of public retirement system benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the statute diminished and impaired the Plan’s retired members’ benefits, it violated the Pension Clause of Article 29, 1(C). View "Fields v. Elected Officials’ Ret. Plan" on Justia Law

by
The State of Arizona filed an interlocutory appeal from an order issued in the general stream adjudications of the Gila River System and Source and the Little Colorado System and Source. At issue was whether federal water rights were impliedly reserved on lands granted by the United States government to the State of Arizona to support education and other public institutions (State Trust Lands). The Supreme Court accepted review and affirmed the superior court's ruling that there was no withdrawal, no reservation for a federal purpose, and no congressional intent to reserve water rights for the State Trust Lands. View "In re Water Rights to Gila / Little Colorado" on Justia Law