Arizona Supreme Court Won’t Let New Laws Take Effect While It Considers Expedited Handling Of Appeal

September 30, 2021

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Arizona Supreme Court will not decide until at least Friday afternoon whether to allow Attorney General Mark Brnovich to bypass the normal appeal process with his challenge to Monday’s ruling by a Maricopa County judge who found dozens of new laws or amendments to existing laws unconstitutional.

Until then, the status quo remains in place, according to Justice Ann Scott Timmer, who signed an order Wednesday denying the attorney general’s emergency motion to stay the Sept. 27 ruling by Judge Katherine Cooper. The decision to deny the requested stay was made after Timmer conferred with five other justices, she noted in the order.

Among other things, Cooper’s ruling means school districts and charter schools can mandate mask wearing, state universities cannot require COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of in-person attendance, and teachers cannot be sued for organizing walkouts, based on the judge’s finding that all or part of four budget reconciliation bills (BRBs) signed by Gov. Doug Ducey violate the Arizona Constitution.

According to Cooper, the constitution requires the title of each legislative bill to properly identify a single subject matter, so unrelated provisions are not combined into one bill. But the attorney general calls Cooper’s ruling “legally erroneous” and argues the four BRBs are constitutional.

“Each of the provisions contained therein relate directly or indirectly to the subject of the title. And each of the provisions contained in SB 1819 are germane to the subject contained in its title—state budget procedures,” the State argues in the petition for transfer to case from the Arizona Court of Appeals and directly to the Supreme Court.

Such a transfer is warranted due to the impact of Cooper’s ruling which nullified 58 provisions of state law slated to take effect Wednesday, according to the petition.

“The trial court’s ruling carries significant implications for the operation of state government and the State will continue to suffer harm if the trial court’s ruling is not swiftly overturned, allowing the challenged provisions to immediately go into effect,” the petition states. “Extraordinary circumstances exist here and warrant immediate Supreme Court review.”

The court of appeals has set deadlines for briefing in its court just in case the Supreme Court denies the transfer. However, legal observers told AZ Free News that bypassing the court of appeals would be in the interest of judicial economy, as whoever loses there will immediately petition for review to the Supreme Court.

Timmer gave the various plaintiffs until 5 p.m. Thursday to respond to the State’s petition to transfer the appeal out of the Arizona Court of Appeals. The State’s attorneys then have until 3 p.m. Friday to file an optional reply.

The attorney general’s petition also proposes a series of deadlines for filing additional briefings if the justices grant the transfer. Those deadlines would keep the new laws and amendments on the sidelines until at least Oct. 18.

Effected by Cooper’s title / single subject ruling are Sections 12, 21, and 50 of HB2898 (K-12 Education), Sections 12 and 13 of SB1824 (Healthcare), and Section 2 of SB1825 (Higher Education). She also ruled the entire 55 pages of SB1819, the Budget Procedures bill, void due to the same violation.

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