Justia Arizona Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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In this lawsuit brought by the Attorney General against the Arizona Board of Regents challenging certain tuition policies, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court dismissing the action, holding that the Attorney General was not authorized to proceed with its first set of claims but that the trial court erred by granting the motion to dismiss the latter challenge.The Attorney General alleged that the Board's tuition-setting policies violate Ariz. Const. art. XI, 6 and that subsidizing in-state tuition for students who are not lawfully present constitutes an unlawful expenditure of public funds. The trial court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the Attorney General lacked authority to bring it. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's decision, holding (1) Ariz. Rev. Stat. 35-212 did not provide a basis for counts I-V, and therefore, the trial court properly dismissed those claims for lack of authority on the part of the Attorney General to prosecute them; and (2) the trial court erred in dismissing count VI because the Attorney General was entitled to prove that, in providing in-state tuition on behalf of students were not not lawfully present, the Board illegally expended funds beyond the amount of tuition collected. View "State ex rel. Brnovich v. Arizona Board of Regents" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Arizona Department of Health Services' (ADHS) interpretation of Arizona Administrative Code R9-17-303, which governs ADHS's allocation of marijuana dispensary registration certificates, violated Ariz. Rev. Stat. 36-2804(C).On June 16, 2016, ADHS announced that, because every county had at least one dispensary, it would allocate new registration certificates based on other factors set forth in R9-17-303. Saguaro Healing LLC timely applied for a certificate for its dispensary in La Paz County. During the application period, the only dispensary in La Paz County relocated out of the county. ADHS, however, did not consider the vacancy when prioritizing registration certificates and did not issue a certificate to Saguaro, leaving La Paz County without a dispensary. Saguaro filed a complaint for special action. The trial court dismissed the complaint because R9-17-303(B) "does not say when, during the process of issuing new certificates, [ADHS] must determine how certificates will be allocated." The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Ariz. Rev. Stat. 36-2804(C) requires ADHS to issue at least one medical marijuana dispensary registration certificate in each county with a qualified applicant; and (2) ADHS's interpretation of R9-17-303 contrary to this statutory mandate violates section 36-2804(C). View "Saguaro Healing LLC v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Arizona Corporation Commission may appoint an interim manager to operate a public service corporation (PSC) based on its permissive authority under Ariz. Const. art. XV, 3.Under article 15, section 3, the Commission has permissive authority to make and enforce reasonable orders for the convenience, comfort, safety, and health of the public. Concluding that it was necessary to protect public health and safety, the Commission appointed EPCOR Water Arizona as an interim manager for Johnson Utilities, LLC, an Arizona PSC. Johnson filed a special action seeking to enjoin its enforcement, but the court of appeals denied relief, holding that the Commission has both constitutional and statutory authority to appoint an interim manager of a PSC. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' opinion, holding that the Commission may appoint an interim manager based on its permissive authority under article 15, section 3 of the Arizona Constitution. View "Johnson Utilities, LLC v. Arizona Corp. Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the correct interpretation of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 23-750(E)(5), which provides that income earned by any individual who performed certain services while employed by an entity that provides such services to or on behalf of an "educational institution" cannot be used to qualify for unemployment during breaks between academic terms if that person is guaranteed reemployment.Plaintiffs were employees of Chicanos For La Cause (CPLC), a nonprofit corporation that administered federally funded Early Head Start and Migrant Seasonal Head Start programs and provided services to help school districts comply with their obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. When the summer break began, Plaintiffs applied for unemployment insurance benefits from Arizona Department of Economic Security (ADES), which granted benefits. The ADES Appeals Board reversed. The Supreme Court remanded the case to ADES to award unemployment benefits to two plaintiffs and for further proceedings to resolve the claims of the remaining plaintiffs, holding that section 23-750(E)(5) applies to plaintiffs only if they performed services for CPLC that CPLC supplied to the school districts. View "Rosas v. Arizona Department of Economic Security" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the administration of the Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) the Supreme Court held that the requirement to submit a retirement application for receipt of retirement benefits pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 38-757(A) does not violate Ariz. Const. art. XXIX, 1(D) and that all conditions listed in Ariz. Rev. Stat. 38-764(A) must be satisfied in order to elect a retirement date under the ASRS Plan.Plaintiff began her Plan-qualified employment in 1978 and became eligible for a normal retirement in 2005. In 2016, Plaintiff submitted an application for retirement, listing 2005 as her date for commencing retirement. The ASRS Agency rejected that date and instead used the 2016 date as Plaintiff's retirement date. After unsuccessfully pursuing administrative remedies, Plaintiff sought judicial review in superior court. The court affirmed the Agency's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Plan processed Plaintiff's retirement date as provided for in statute and calculated her chosen monthly life annuity benefit as required; and (2) therefore, the Plan complied with section 38-757(A), and no forfeiture, impairment, or diminishment of Plaintiff's normal retirement benefits occurred in violation of article 29, section 1(D) of the Arizona Constitution. View "Lagerman v. Arizona State Retirement System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court set aside an administrative law judge's (ALJ) denial of Gilbert Aguirre's workers' compensation claim for benefits, holding that a claimant does not waive appellate review of the legally sufficiency of findings before the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA).In Post v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, 160 Ariz. 4, 7-9 (1989), the Supreme Court held that when an ALJ fails to make findings on all material issues necessary to resolve the case the award is legally deficient and must be set aside. In this case, after an ALJ denied Aguirre's claim for benefits he filed a request for administrative review. In his request, Aguirre did not specifically challenge the ALJ's failure to make material findings as required by Post. The ALJ summarily affirmed the award. The court of appeals set aside the award based on the absence of legally-sufficient findings. At issue on appeal was whether, because Aguirre did not challenge the lack of material findings required by Post in his request for review, Appellant waived appellate review on that issue. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the ALJ's award was legally deficient and must be set aside regardless of whether Aguirre raised the issue. View "Aguirre v. Industrial Commission of Arizona" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the portion of the order of the Arizona Corporation Commission requiring a public utility to apply for Commission approval of a proposed condemnation, holding that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 40-285(A) does not give the Commission power over a city's exercise of eminent domain.Section 40-285(A) gives the Commission authority to approve the sale or disposition of a public service corporation's assets. In the instant case, voters authorized and the city council approved the filing of a condemnation action by the City of Surprise of condemning substantially all the assets of Circle City Water Company, LLC, including the right to four thousand acre-feet of water per year from the Central Arizona Project (CAP). A residential developer asked the Commission to enter an order preventing the "sale" of Circle City's CAP allocation to the City. The Commission ordered Circle City to file an application under section 40-285 seeking Commission authorization to "dispose of" its utility. The Supreme Court vacated the order in part, holding that the Commission has no authority to regulate condemnations under section 40-285(A). View "City of Surprise v. Arizona Corporation Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals in this class action, holding that the surcharge imposed by Maricopa County on car rental agencies to fund a stadium and other sports and tourism-related ventures violated neither the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution nor the anti-diversion provision of the Arizona Constitution.Plaintiff, which rented vehicles in Maricopa County and paid the car rental surcharges, sued the Arizona Department of Revenue seeking refunds and injunctive relief for all similarly situated car rental companies. The tax court certified the class and granted summary judgment for Plaintiff, concluding that the surcharge did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause but did violate the anti-diversion provision. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the surcharge did not violate the anti-diversion provision. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that the Arizona Constitution’s anti-diversion clause, which requires that revenues derived from taxes relating to the operation of motor vehicles must be allocated for public highways, does not apply to a tax relating to the operation of motor vehicles. View "Saban Rent-a-Car LLC v. Arizona Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 45-108 does not require the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) to consider unquantified federal reserved water rights when it determines whether a developer has an adequate water supply for purposes of the statute.This case stemmed from the ADWR’s 2013 adequate water supply approving Pueblo Del Sol Water Company’s application to supply water to a proposed development in Cochise County. The superior court vacated ADWR’s decision, concluding that the agency erred in determining that Pueblo’s water supply was “legally available” because ADWR was required to consider potential and existing legal claims that might affect the availability of the water supply, including the Bureau of Land Management’s unquantified federal water right. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s decision and affirmed ADWR’s approval of Pueblo’s application, holding that ADWR is not required to consider unquantified federal reserved water rights under its physical availability or legal availability analysis. View "Silver v. Pueblo Del Sol Water Co" on Justia Law

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Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-957(B)’s fourteen-day time limit for an appeal of a Citizens Clean Elections Commission penalty decision applies when the appellant challenges the Commission’s personal and subject-matter jurisdiction.The Commission in this case found probable cause to believe that Legacy Foundation Action Fund violated the Citizens Clean Elections Act, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-940 to -961 and thus assessed a civil penalty. Eighteen days after the Commission’s final decision, Legacy filed an appeal in the superior court. The superior court dismissed the appeal because it was not filed within fourteen days of a final Commission penalty decision as required by section 16-957(B). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court correctly dismissed the appeal. View "Legacy Foundation Action Fund v. Citizens Clean Elections Commission" on Justia Law