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Students granted deferred removal action by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy are not eligible for in-state college tuition in Arizona. In 2013, the Arizona Attorney General filed this action seeking a determination that the Maricopa County Community College District Board’s (MCCCD) policy of accepting employment authorization documents (EADs) issued to DACA recipients by the DHS as evidence of residency for students to receive in-state tuition violated Arizona law. The Attorney General also sought an injunction prohibiting MCCCD from allowing DACA recipients to obtain the in-state tuition rates. Two DACA-recipient MCCCD students who receive in-state tuition intervened. The trial court granted summary judgment to MCCCD and the students, concluding that DACA recipients are “lawfully present” for purposes of eligibility for in-state tuition and are therefore eligible for in-state tuition benefits. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that DACA recipients are not “lawfully present” for purposes of 8 U.S.C. 1623(a), which governs in-state tuition benefits, and therefore, DACA recipients are not eligible for in-state tuition. View "State ex rel. Attorney General v. Maricopa County Community College District Board" on Justia Law

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A defendant need not submit additional evidence outside the existing record to establish a “meritorious defense” in a motion to set aside a default judgment under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 60(c) (now 60(b)), and a trial court has broad discretion to determine whether a matter should be decided on the merits. In the instant case, after a hearing at which Plaintiff presented evidence and Defendants failed to appear, the trial court entered a default judgment. Defendants filed a Rule 60(c) motion to vacate the damage award. The trial court granted the motion on the grounds that the record suggested that the judgment amount was excessive. The court of appeals reversed and reinstated the default damages judgment, concluding that Defendants had no presented a “meritorious defense” to support the motion. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ decision and affirmed the trial court’s order, holding (1) evidence outside the extant record is unnecessary to establish the meritorious defense supporting the motion to vacate; and (2) although a possibly excessive judgment does not automatically entitle a defendant to vacate a default judgment, the trial court in this case acted within its discretion. View "Gonzalez v. Nguyen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Under Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137, 158 (1987), in determining if a defendant acted with “reckless indifference to human life” while he was a major participant in a felony, thus making him eligible for the death penalty, the fact-finder may consider evidence of the defendant’s diminished capacity. The postconviction relief (PCR) court in this case granted Defendant relief by commuting his death sentence to a life sentence. The PCR court ruled (1) Defendant was ineligible for the death penalty under Tison because reasonable doubt existed whether he acted with the requisite reckless mental state; and (2) even if Defendant were death-eligible under Tison, he would be entitled to resentencing because he sufficiently demonstrated that the sentencing court would not have imposed the death penalty had it known of his mental health deficiencies. The Supreme Court affirmed the PCR court’s ruling that Defendant was ineligible for the death penalty under Tison, holding that the PCR court did not err by admitting diminished-capacity and voluntary-intoxication evidence in the Tison inquiry. View "State v. Miles" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Pursuant to Ariz. R. Evid. 609(a)(2), evidence of a shoplifting conviction is admissible to impeach a witness only when the court can readily determine that the conviction turned on proof of a dishonest act or false statement. During Defendant’s criminal trial, the prosecution called Witness to testify. Defendant told the court that he intended to impeach Witness with a 2015 misdemeanor shoplifting conviction. The trial court refused to admit the impeachment evidence. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that shoplifting is not categorically a “dishonest act or false statement” for purposes of Rule 609(a)(2). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a conviction for shoplifting is not automatically admissible under Rule 609(a)(2) because the crime does not necessarily require the prosecution to prove “a dishonest act or false statement” within the meaning of Rule 609(a)(2). View "State v. Winegardner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) is not authorized to value solar panels owned by SolarCity Corporation and Sunrun, Inc. (collectively, Taxpayers) and leased to residential and commercial property owners. For tax year 2015, ADOR notified Taxpayers that their panels had been assigned full cash values and that taxes would be assessed. Taxpayers sought a declaratory judgment that the panels were considered to have no value under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 42-11054(C)(2) and were not subject to valuation. The tax court ruled that the panels were “general property” that must be valued by county assessors pursuant to section 42-13051(A) and that the county assessors cannot assign a zero value because applying section 42-11054(c)(2)’s zero value provision to the panels would violate the Exemptions Clause and the Uniformity Clause of the Arizona Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed the tax court’s judgment to the extent it concluded that ADOR lacked statutory authority to value Taxpayers’ leased solar panels but reversed the remainder of the judgment and remanded for a determination as to whether section 42-13054 authorizes county assessors to value the solar panels and, if so, whether section 42-11054(C)(2) requires a zero valuation. If section 42-11054(C)(2) applies, the tax could should determine whether that provision violates the Exemptions Clause or Uniformity Clause. View "SolarCity Corp. v. Arizona Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) is not authorized to value solar panels owned by SolarCity Corporation and Sunrun, Inc. (collectively, Taxpayers) and leased to residential and commercial property owners. For tax year 2015, ADOR notified Taxpayers that their panels had been assigned full cash values and that taxes would be assessed. Taxpayers sought a declaratory judgment that the panels were considered to have no value under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 42-11054(C)(2) and were not subject to valuation. The tax court ruled that the panels were “general property” that must be valued by county assessors pursuant to section 42-13051(A) and that the county assessors cannot assign a zero value because applying section 42-11054(c)(2)’s zero value provision to the panels would violate the Exemptions Clause and the Uniformity Clause of the Arizona Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed the tax court’s judgment to the extent it concluded that ADOR lacked statutory authority to value Taxpayers’ leased solar panels but reversed the remainder of the judgment and remanded for a determination as to whether section 42-13054 authorizes county assessors to value the solar panels and, if so, whether section 42-11054(C)(2) requires a zero valuation. If section 42-11054(C)(2) applies, the tax could should determine whether that provision violates the Exemptions Clause or Uniformity Clause. View "SolarCity Corp. v. Arizona Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court disavowed the approach of the state’s courts prohibiting a defendant from simultaneously claiming self-defense and asserting a misidentification defense, holding that if some evidence supports a finding of self-defense, and even if the defendant asserts a misidentification defense, the prosecution must prove the absence of self-defense and the trial court must give a requested self-defense jury instruction. The court of appeals in this case reversed Defendant’s murder convictions and remanded the case for a new trial, concluding that the trial court erred in refusing to give a self-defense instruction on the grounds that Defendant had denied he had shot the victims. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and reversed Defendant’s convictions and sentences, holding (1) at least the “slightest evidence” existed that Defendant shot the victims in self-defense; and (2) therefore, the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on self-defense. View "State v. Carson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Superior Court of Navajo County erred when it denied Defendants’ motion for change of venue in this legal malpractice action filed by a Hospital located in Navajo County against a professional limited liability company (PLLC) organized in Maricopa County and its attorneys, both Maricopa County residents. After the Hospital sued, Defendants moved to transfer venue to Maricopa County, arguing that venue in Navajo County was improper unless a statutory exception applied under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-401. The trial court denied the motion, finding that venue in Navajo was proper under section 12-401(5) because the Hospital “exclusively contracted business in Navajo County,” and under section 12-401(18), reasoning that LLCs should be considered corporations for venue purposes. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the PLLC was not required, expressly or by necessary implication, to perform in Navajo County; and (2) the trial court erred when it applied the subsection (18) exception on the basis that LLCs, like corporations, are amenable to veil-piercing, where venue and the alter-ego doctrine reflect different policy considerations. View "Butler Law Firm, PLC v. Honorable Robert J. Higgins" on Justia Law

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At issue was the procedure for evaluating a capital defendant’s intellectual disability (ID) status before trial. Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-753(B) provides that the trial court shall order a pretrial ID evaluation in every capital case unless the defendant objects, and if the defendant objects, the defendant waives the right to a pretrial evaluation. In the instant case, more than two years after filing his objection to an ID evaluation and four months before the scheduled trial, Defendant moved to withdraw his objection to court-ordered testing. The trial court granted the motion, concluding that section 13-753(B) permitted Defendant to reinstate his right to a pretrial ID evaluation by withdrawing his objection. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded the case for consideration of Defendant’s request for an ID evaluation, holding (1) a defendant cannot void his waiver under section 13-753(B) by later withdrawing his objection; but (2) a defendant’s waiver does not deprive the court of its discretionary authority to order a pretrial ID evaluation if the defendant later requests or consents to one. View "State v. Honorable Pamela S. Gates" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue in this termination of parental rights proceeding was the procedure a juvenile court must follow if a parent fails to timely appear for a scheduled and duly-notice termination adjudication hearing. The Supreme Court held (1) a parent who fails timely to appear for a duly-noticed termination adjudication hearing has “failed to appear” under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-863(C) and Ariz. R.P. Juv. Ct. 66(D)(2); (2) if a juvenile court exercises its discretion to proceeding with the hearing in a parent’s absence after finding waiver of the parent’s legal rights, the rights waived include the parent’s due process rights to be present and to participate and testify in the hearing; (3) the waiver rules do not apply to a parent’s right to counsel at a termination adjudication hearing, which right is unaffected by the parent’s appearance or absence; and (4) when a juvenile court finds that a parent has waived his or her legal rights, the state must nonetheless present sufficient evidence to establish an alleged ground for termination and for a finding that termination is in the child’s best interests. View "Brenda D. v. Department of Child Safety, Z.D." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law