As candidates for legislative and statewide elected offices in Arizona are gearing up for the 2014 elections, a crucial yet unanswered question looms over the proceedings: how much money are candidates allowed to accept from campaign donors? In attempting to clarify the answer, the Arizona Court of Appeals held last month that House Bill 2593 was ineffective because it had not been passed with a supermajority as required by the Arizona Constitution.1 In doing so, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Clean Elections Commission and against the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate. House Bill 2593, signed into law last spring, overrode existing campaign contribution limits by increasing the maximum contribution that political campaigns could accept from individual supporters. With the enjoinment of the new law, the previous, stricter, campaign contribution requirements are once again the law of Arizona—unless the Arizona Supreme Court steps in.
On March 5, 2013, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of Stagecoach Trails (“Stagecoach”) in Stagecoach Trails, L.L.C v. City of Benson.1 Stagecoach sought a permit to install a new home in its manufactured home park after a space became vacant, but was denied by the City of Benson.2 A major issue in the case was whether the individual space, as opposed to the entire park, was a nonconforming use under Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) Section 9-462.02(A).3 Under that Section, a nonconforming use is exempt from complying with certain provisions of the city’s zoning code.4 Because the court found that the entire park is a nonconforming use and exempt from the city’s zoning code, the court held that Stagecoach could install the new home.5
On March 5, 2013, the Arizona Supreme Court clarified a statute that had been a gray area for over 20 years when it interpreted Arizona Revised Statute (“A.R.S.”) § 13-4033(B) as applied to post-judgment restitution.1 The Court held that A.R.S. § 13-4033(B) precludes defendants from challenging a post-judgment restitution order made pursuant to a plea agreement, when the agreement specifies a capped amount.2 The importance of this decision stems from the right of criminal defendants to “appeal in all cases” guaranteed by the Arizona Constitution.3 The Court’s decision carefully protects this right by allowing the defendants to petition for post-conviction relief under Rule 32 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure.4
The Arizona Supreme Court in In re Estate of Kirkes held that a deceased spouse can leave more than one-half of a community-owned retirement account to a non-spouse beneficiary, so long as the surviving spouse receives at least one-half of the community’s entire value.1 In doing so, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals decision in In re Estate of Kirkes, 229 Ariz. 212 (App. 2012).
The Arizona Supreme Court recently decided in In re Estate of Riley that all beneficiaries of an estate must execute a settlement agreement if the agreement affects the beneficiaries’ interests in the estate and the parties to the agreement seek court approval.1 The Court narrowed the Arizona Court of Appeals’ ruling and effectively mitigated a number of negative implications arising from the lower court’s decision.2
The Arizona Supreme Court recently held that the Arizona Securities Act (“ASA”) does not allow a claim for aiding and abetting securities fraud and the Court expressly overruled a previous case, State v. Superior Court (Davis).1 Specifically, the Court reasoned that it would be improper to extend common law tort remedies over an issue that was extensively covered by statute. In reaching this decision, the Court relied on the legislative history of the ASA and on the U.S. Supreme Court precedent disallowing federal aiding and abetting liability.2
Declining to depart from substantial compliance test for review of initiatives, Arizona Supreme Court explains its decision to allow challenged proposition on the 2012 ballot.
The Supreme Court recently held that a clerical error in the submission of an initiative to the Secretary of State’s office does not cause the initiative to fail to substantially comply with Arizona’s statutory requirement to submit to the Secretary “a full and correct copy of the text” of the initiative.
Rae Ann Rumery, John Skarhus, and Cartwright Elementary School District v. Maria Baier, No. CV-11-0358-PR, 2013 WL 85338 (Ariz. 2013)
On January 9, 2013, the Arizona Supreme Court held that a state statute diverting money from state trust lands to a trust management fund instead of the designated permanent fund violated Article 10, Section 7 of the Arizona Constitution.1 In 1910, Congress granted 10 million acres of land to Arizona to hold in trust for public purposes.2 According to Arizona’s Constitution, any proceeds from state trust land must be used in furtherance of a stipulated public purpose.3 In 2009, Arizona enacted Ariz. Rev. Stat. (“A.R.S”) Section 37-527, which proportioned some of the money derived from state trust lands to pay the costs of managing the land.4 Rae Ann Rumery, John Skarhus, and the Cartwright Elementary School District filed a lawsuit alleging that Section 37-527 violated Section 28 of the New Mexico-Arizona Enabling Act and Article 10, Section 7 the Arizona Constitution because it allocated state trust funds away from the land’s intended purpose.5 Baier, the Arizona State Land Commissioner, appealed the trial court’s ruling that Section 37-527 violated the Arizona Constitution.6 The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision, stating that Arizona may only use monies derived from state trust lands in accordance with the Arizona Constitution, even if the Constitution is silent as to how the state should fund the management of those lands.7
Proposition 121 would have amended the Arizona Constitution to replace publicly funded, partisan primary elections1 with privately funded, open primary elections in which all candidates would appear on the one primary ballot and the two candidates receiving the most votes on that ballot would advance to the general election, irrespective of political party. In Save Our Vote, Opposing C-03-2012 v. Bennett, No CV-12-0272-AP/EL, 2013 WL 57692 (Ariz. 2013), Plaintiffs political organizations and Arizona electors sought to enjoin the Secretary of State from placing Proposition 121 on the November 2012 general election ballot. They argued that Proposition 121 violated the separate amendment rule of Article 21, Section 1 of the Arizona Constitution2 in that it did not permit electors to vote separately on Proposition 121’s two alleged constitutional amendments: (1) the shift from a closed to an open primary election; and (2) the prohibition of public funding for primary elections.3 The Arizona Supreme Court was also called on to determine whether the petition signature sheets for the measure violated Ariz. Rev. Stat. Section 19-102(A), which requires, inter alia, petition signature sheets to include a description of the principle provisions of constitutional amendments.
The framework for qualifying expert medical testimony in Arizona is codified at Ariz. Rev. Stat. Section 12-2604. Recently interpreted by the Arizona Court of Appeals in Baker v. University Physicians Healthcare1 and under review by the Arizona Supreme Court, Section 12-2604 plays a critical role in defining the duty element of medical negligence. But faced with a poorly written statute, the Court of Appeals in Baker missed an opportunity to resolve a confusing yet crucial aspect of litigating malpractice claims in Arizona: expert witness qualification.
After an automatic appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed Fabio Gomez’s death sentence for his conviction for the December 1999 kidnapping, rape, and murder of Joan Morane. State v. Gomez, No. CR–10–0358–AP, 2012 WL 6061679, at ¶¶ 1, 44 (Ariz. 2012). Gomez alleged his death sentence was in error for three reasons: first, because the trial court had revoked his pro per status; second, his motion for new counsel was denied; and finally, because the State failed to present evidence that Morane’s murder met the elevated cruelty standard under Arizona law. Id. at ¶¶ 7, 18, 30. The statute requires the evaluation of any “especially heinous, cruel or depraved” circumstances when considering the imposition of a death sentence. A.R.S. § 13-751(F)(6) (2011).
In re Gen. Adjudication of All Rights to Use Water in the Gila River Sys. & Source, No. WC-11-0001-IR, 2012 WL 3966327
On September 12, 2012, the Arizona Supreme Court addressed another aspect of the ongoing Gila River and Little Colorado River General Stream adjudications. The adjudications are based on A.R.S. §§ 45-251-45-264, and a potential claimant is anyone who claims the right to use water from either of the river systems. The various claims have been joined in a mass litigation. This case is only one piece of a broader, decades-old dispute over some 96,000 claims for water from the two river systems. At issue in the litigation was the priority and extent of water rights for thousands of claimants in the two river systems.
Arizona Supreme Court Holds that Tattoos are Constitutionally Protected Speech Entitled to First Amendment Protection.
Coleman v. City of Mesa, 230 Ariz. 352, 284 P.3d 863 (2012)
Ryan and Laetitia Coleman applied for a permit to operate a tattoo parlor in Mesa, Arizona. City officials denied the application based partly on concerns that the parlor would be inappropriate for the neighborhood where it would be located. The Colemans sued the City, alleging that its denial of their application violated their rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection under the U.S and Arizona Constitutions. In Superior Court, the City successfully moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed the Superior Court’s dismissal of the Colemans’ suit.
Administrative Law Judge Finds TUSD’s Mexican American Studies Program Illegal Under Arizona’s Ethnic Studies Law, Questions Remain About How Broadly the Law Should Be Interpreted
In the Fall 2011 Issue of the Arizona Law Review, I wrote1 that A.R.S. section 15-112, Arizona’s highly controversial “ethnic studies law,” would be unlikely to stop schools in the Tucson Unified School District (“TUSD”) from teaching Mexican American Studies courses. Since then, an administrative law judge has upheld the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction’s determination that these courses violate the law, and TUSD shuttered the Mexican American Studies program. The judge’s decision is the first to interpret the ethnic studies law, but it still leaves Arizona educators in the dark about what precisely the law prohibits.
No Longer the Highest Degree of Confusion: Arizona Supreme Court Strikes Down the Common Carrier Doctrine
The Arizona Supreme Court’s most recent decision, Nunez v. Professional Transit Management, addressed a long-standing confusion over the common carrier doctrine in Arizona.1 After decades of ambiguous case law, the court held that the general negligence standard—rather than a heightened standard—applies to common carriers in the state. Now, litigants must only argue the existence of “reasonable care under all the circumstances,”2 as opposed to “the highest degree of care practicable under the circumstances.”3
Cosper v. Rea: In an appeal from arbitration, disclosure of witnesses and exhibits is limited to simultaneous filing with the notice of appeal
In a decision released Monday, the Arizona Supreme Court clarified a procedural question concerning disclosure in appeals from arbitration. Pursuant to Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 77(g)(1), an appellant must file an Appeal from Arbitration and Motion to Set for Trial simultaneously with a list of witnesses and exhibits that complies with the requirements of Rule 26.1. If the appellant does not file a list of witnesses and exhibits, “then the witnesses and exhibits intended to be used at trial by appellant shall be deemed to be those set forth in any such list previously filed in the action.” Subsection (g)(3) also states that the parties have 80 days from the filing of the appeal to complete discovery under Rules 26 through 37 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure. And, subsection (g)(4) states: “For good cause shown the court may extend the time for discovery set forth in subsection (3) above and/or allow a supplemental list of witnesses and exhibits to be filed.”
On November 18, the Arizona Supreme Court filed its decision in Vasquez v. Saxon Mortgage, Inc., et al.1 The case centered on whether the defendant Deutsche Bank could foreclose on Tucson homeowner Julia Vasquez, even though Deutsche Bank was not the beneficiary of record on the deed of trust. Saxon Mortgage, the originator of the loan and co-defendant, was still the beneficiary of record on the deed of trust because the assignment to Deutsche Bank had not been recorded. In a narrow holding based in Arizona statutory law, the court held that Deutsche Bank could foreclose on Julia Vasquez.
Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 15.8 provides for sanctions if a prosecutor “imposes a plea deadline” and fails to disclose material information to the defense at least 30 days before the plea offer expires. On November 23, 2011, the Arizona Supreme Court defined the boundaries of Rule 15.8 in Rivera-Longoria v. Slayton.
The Arizona Supreme Court yesterday reinstated Independent Redistricting Committee Chair Colleen Mathis. The Court concluded: “the letter of November 1, 2011, from the Acting Governor to the intervenor Colleen Mathis does not demonstrate ‘substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, or inability to discharge the duties of office’ by the intervenor Mathis, as required under Article 4, Part 2, Section 1(10) of the Arizona Constitution.”
The Court will soon issue an opinion “more fully detailing its reasoning” in the matter.
On November 8, 2011, voters in Arizona’s Legislative District 18 ousted Senate President Russell Pearce in a historic recall election—the first successful recall of a sitting legislator in Arizona and of a sitting Senate president in the United States. The Arizona Supreme Court allowed the election after dismissing District 18 voter Franklin Ross’s objection to procedures used to obtain the signatures necessary for recall.
The common carrier doctrine—a common law principle that holds common carriers of passengers to the “highest degree of care,” rather than the reasonable care standard that governs most negligence actions—has been accepted as the law in Arizona dating back to territorial days. The doctrine holds common carriers to a higher standard of care than the ordinary person is required to exercise; in other words, the common carrier must exercise greater than reasonable care. It remains unclear, however, what exactly constitutes “greater than reasonable” behavior. The real trouble arises if the liability of a common carrier must be weighed against another actor held to the reasonable care standard for purposes of comparative negligence analysis. When Arizona first adopted the common carrier doctrine, fact-finders were not yet charged with the task of allocating percentages of fault between negligent parties. Since the dawn of the comparative negligence era, the prospect of applying the common carrier doctrine in a uniform and equitable fashion is challenging, if not impossible.
ALR member and 3L writer Stephen Elzinga argued in front of the Arizona Supreme Court in State v. Eddington last month. You can view an archived video of the argument on the here.
For nearly 40 years the Arizona Supreme Court followed the Frye standard governing expert witness testimony. On September 7, 2011, the Court changed this trajectory by amending Arizona Rule of Evidence 702. The Court’s decision effectively resolved the lengthy tension between Frye and Daubert in Arizona. Effective January 1, 2012, Arizona will join a majority of other states in following the Daubert standard.