§ Issues of Public Significance.


§ Issues of Public Significance. Appellate courts frequently accept special action jurisdiction because the issue raised is one of broad public significance and requires resolution by an appellate court in a published opinion to provide guidance for trial courts, attorneys and litigants. As stated above, when the issue raised involves the interpretation of a rule or statute, the legal issue is typically one of statewide importance. Often there is a concomitant need for an expedited decision. There are many cases in which the appellate courts have identified the issue as one of statewide importance. Constitutional issues that are a matter of first impression and are likely to have broad future application and significance are typically reviewed by special action. See, e.g., League of Ariz. Cities & Towns v. Martin, 219 Ariz. 556, 201 P.3d 517 (2009) (addressing constitutional question whether statute requiring cities and towns to deposit funds into state general fund is appropriation that can be included in general appropriations bill); Cronin v. Sheldon, 195 Ariz. 531, 537-42, ¶¶ 25-57, 991 P.2d 231, 237-42 (1999) (upholding constitutionality of Employment Protection Act); Hull v. Albrecht, 192 Ariz. 34, 35, ¶ 1, 960 P.2d 634, 635 (1998) (deciding whether Students First Act complied with constitutional obligation to fund general and uniform school system); State ex rel. Woods v. Block, 189 Ariz. 269, 270, 272, 942 P.2d 428, 429, 431 (1997) (addressing separation of powers issue and constitutionality of legislation relating to Constitutional Defense Council); Fain Land & Cattle Co. v. Hassell, 163 Ariz. 587, 588, 790 P.2d 242, 243 (1990) (determining validity of land exchange statutes as applied to state trust lands); State v. Klein, 214 Ariz. 205, ¶ 4, 150 P.3d 778, 780 (App. 2007) (accepting jurisdiction to decide whether statute relating to deposition of victim was constitutional); Martin v. Reinstein, 195 Ariz. 293, 322-23, ¶¶ 108-10, 987 P.2d 779, 808-09 (App. 1999) (upholding constitutionality of Sexually Violent Persons Act); Hunter Contracting Co. v. Superior Court (Grandinetti), 190 Ariz. 318, 319, 947 P.2d 892, 893 (App. 1997) (holding that A.R.S. § 12-2602, which then required party asserting claim against registered professional or contractor to submit expert affidavit with claim, violates Equal Protection Clause of Arizona Constitution).

Public policy questions that affect the political process have been found to be particularly appropriate for special action review. But note that in Forty-Seventh Legislature v. Napolitano, 213 Ariz. 482, 485, ¶ 9, 143 P.3d 1023, 1026 (2006), the supreme court made it a point to say, “[i]n deciding whether to accept jurisdiction and resolve the substantive issues raised in this action . . . we begin with the understanding that the action raises legal, not political, issues.” Similarly, in the earlier case of Bennett v. Napolitano, 206 Ariz. 520, 527-28, ¶¶ 32-34, 81 P.3d 311, 318-19 (2003), the court was equally cautious about injecting itself into political matters, reiterating the reluctance it had expressed in Rios v. Symington, 172 Ariz. 3, 5, 833 P.2d 20, 22 (1992) (quoting Brown v. Firestone, 382 So.2d 654, 671 (Fla. 1980) (“[I]t would be a serious mistake to interpret our acceptance of jurisdiction in this cause as a general willingness to thrust the Court into the political arena and referee on an . . . [annual] basis the assertions of the power of the executive and legislative branches in the appropriations act. . . . [F]uture attempts to invoke this Court’s jurisdiction on similar grounds will be viewed with great circumspection.”).

Nevertheless, there are a number of cases in which the court has intervened, addressing legal questions of statewide significance that have had political repercussions. In Ingram v. Shumway, 164 Ariz. 514, 516, 794 P.2d 147, 149 (1990), for example, the supreme court rejected impeached Governor Mecham’s argument that because the superior court had original jurisdiction to hear cases involving challenges to nomination petitions, it, not the supreme court, therefore could address whether “the constitution require[s] that a state officer convicted in an impeachment trial and removed from office also be automatically disqualified from holding any future office in the state.” The court stated the case involved far more than just nomination petitions; rather, it called for a decision on “the correct interpretation of the impeachment provisions of the constitution.” Id. The court added that the propriety of exercising jurisdiction was “well-founded” as part of its constitutional authority to issue common law writs and writs of mandamus. Id. The court accepted “special action jurisdiction to decide the matter because it involve[d] a matter of statewide importance, great public interest, and require[d] final resolution in a prompt manner.” Id.

There are many other examples. See, e.g., Mecham v. Gordon, 156 Ariz. 297, 300-02, 751 P.2d 957, 960-62 (1988) (involving validity of impeachment process itself); Jennings v. Woods, 194 Ariz. 314, 332, ¶¶ 89-92, 982 P.2d 274, 292 (1999) (contesting qualifications of individual elected to seat on corporation commission); Arizona Legislative Council v. Howe, 192 Ariz. 378, 382, ¶ 10, 965 P.2d 770...

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