Coombs v. Maricopa County Special Health Care District – 12/13/2016

January 10, 2017

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that the Administrative Review Act does not establish jurisdiction for review of a political subdivision’s decisions.

The Maricopa County Special Health Care District terminated Plaintiff’s employment.  Pursuant to the rules of the District’s merit system, she appealed the dismissal to the District’s CEO.  A hearing officer held a three-day hearing and recommended the appeal be dismissed, and the CEO accepted the recommendation.  Plaintiff brought an action in the superior court as an appeal for judicial review of an administrative decision, pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-904(A).  The superior court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

The court of appeals affirmed.  Under the Administrative Review Act (“ARA”), a party may obtain judicial review of (1) “a final decision of an administrative agency,” or (2) “the decision at an administrative hearing as otherwise provided by statute.”  A.R.S. § 12-902(A).  Political subdivisions (like the District) are excluded from the statutory definition of “administrative agency,” and therefore § 12-902(A)(1) does not apply.  Under § 12-902(A)(2), a special statute must expressly make the review procedures of the ARA applicable.  No such statute applies to the District.  Although A.R.S. § 48-5541(2) provides that the District “may . . . [s]ue and be sued in all courts and places and in all actions and proceedings,” this language merely establishes the District as a jural entity.  It does not authorize judicial review under the ARA.