City of Tucson v. Sensibar – 2/5/2018

March 5, 2018

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two holds that Rule 54 language is not necessary to render a superior court decision final and appealable under A.R.S. § 22-375.

The City of Tucson filed a complaint in municipal court against an individual, as the managing member and statutory agent of a limited liability company, for building code violations.  After a hearing, the city court found the individual liable.  He timely appealed to the superior court, which affirmed the city court’s ruling.  The individual appealed the superior court’s decision.  The Court of Appeals determined that it lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal as untimely.  The Court also declined to exercise special-action jurisdiction and denied the individual’s motion for reconsideration.

After the mandate issued, the individual asked the superior court to amend its prior ruling to include language pursuant to Rule 54(c) of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure.  The superior court amended its prior ruling to include the requested language, and the individual filed a second notice of appeal.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the individual’s second appeal as untimely.  The individual’s argument was that, because Rule 54 language is necessary to make a superior court decision final and appealable, the earlier ruling never became final and thus the current appeal was timely.  But whether Rule 54 language is required for a superior court decision to be final and appealable depends on the statutory basis authorizing the appeal.  Many cases fall under A.R.S. § 12-2101(A)(1), which authorizes an appeal from a “final judgment entered in an action or special proceeding commenced in a superior court.”  To be a “final judgment” for purposes of § 12-2101(A)(1), the judgment must contain Rule 54(b) or (c) language, stating that the judgment is final and appealable.  Here, however, the statutory authorization for appeal was found in A.R.S. § 22-375, which permits an appeal from a “final judgment of the superior court” in an action appealed from a lower court if the action challenges the validity of a municipal statute.  A “final judgment” in such a case does not require Rule 54 language.  Instead, Rule 12(c) of the Civil Superior Court Rules of Appellate Procedure specifies the manner in which the superior court may issue its appellate decision.

Judge Eppich authored the opinion; Judges Vásquez and Espinosa concurred.