§ 5.3.2 A Declaratory Judgment Must Terminate the Controversy.

JurisdictionArizona

§ 5.3.2 A Declaratory Judgment Must Terminate the Controversy. Both the federal and state declaratory judgments acts have been interpreted as grants of authority to the courts, endowing them with discretion to entertain the remedy. Public Service Commission v. Wycoff Co., 344 U.S. 237, 73 S. Ct. 236, 97 L. Ed. 291 (1952) ; Pena v. Fullinwider, 124 Ariz. 42, 601 P.2d 1326 (1979) 3 . In exercising that discretion, the courts consider several factors, including whether the judgment will terminate the controversy, whether other remedies are available and whether other actions that will settle the controversy are already pending. Other factors discussed in § 5.3.5, infra, may cause a court to exercise its discretion and refuse to issue any declaration in particular situations. Professor Borchard, who was instrumental in the drafting of the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act from which Arizona’s statutes are derived, perhaps summarized the principles guiding the exercise of the court’s discretion best:

The two principal criteria guiding the policy in favor of rendering declaratory judgments are (1) when the judgment will serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal relations in issue, and (2) when it will terminate and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity and controversy giving rise to the proceeding.

E. Borchard, Declaratory Judgments 299 (2d ed. 1941).

The discretion that the court exercises is a judicial discretion that can be reviewed on appeal. Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover, 369 U.S. 111, 82 S. Ct. 580, 7 L. Ed. 2d 604 (1962); Pena v. Fullinwider, 124 Ariz. 42, 601 P.2d 1326 (1979); Wright & Miller, supra § 2759 at 656-57 . Thus, consideration of each of the factors that the courts generally weigh in exercising their discretion is important in deciding whether an appeal of the court’s refusing to entertain the action is worthwhile.

In Arizona, the factor of whether the action will terminate the controversy is imposed by statute. A.R.S. § 12-1836 provides: “The court may refuse to render or enter a declaratory judgment or decree where such judgment or decree, if rendered or entered, would not terminate the uncertainty or controversy giving rise to the proceeding.” The federal act lacks any analogous provision; nevertheless, the federal courts have imposed a similar controversy-termination requirement. Public Service Commission v. Wycoff Co., 344 U.S. 237, 73 S. Ct. 236, 97 L. Ed. 291 (1952).

The action need not...

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