Gallardo v. Arizona (10/30/2014)

November 3, 2014

Arizona Supreme Court Clarifies the Elasticity Prong of the Republic Investment Test for Analyzing Whether a Statute Violates the Arizona Constitution’s Prohibition on Special Laws, Holding That Entry Into a Class Created by a Statute Need Not Be Reasonably Probable Within a Particular Time.

In April 2010, the state legislature amended A.R.S. § 15-1441(I), which governs the composition of Arizona’s ten community college district boards, to require the election of two at-large board members to the community college boards in counties “with a population of at least three million persons.”  2010 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 48, § 1 (2d Reg. Sess.).  Because Maricopa County is the only county in Arizona with a population of more than three million people, several plaintiffs filed a complaint in superior court seeking a declaration that the amendment violated the prohibition against special laws found in the Arizona Constitution.  See Ariz. Const. art. 4, pt. 2, § 19(11) (stating that “[n]o local or special laws shall be enacted in . . . [t]he conduct of elections”).  The superior court found that § 15-1441(I) was not unconstitutional, but the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed.  Gallardo v. State of Arizona (“Gallardo I”), 691 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 36, 2014 WL 3671571 (App. July 29, 2014).  The court of appeals concluded that the law failed the elasticity prong of the special laws test articulated in Republic Investment Fund I v. Town of Surprise, 166 Ariz. 143, 148 (1990), which requires that (1) the law must be rationally related to a legitimate legislative objective; (2) the classification created by the law is legitimate and encompasses all members of the relevant class; and (3) the class is elastic, meaning that members of the class must be able to move in and out of the class.  Gallardo I, at *2.  The court of appeals found that it was not “reasonably probable that any other community college district” would be able to enter the class “[b]ecause the likelihood that any county other than Maricopa will reach a population of more than three million is merely theoretical[.]”  Id. at *3.

The Arizona Supreme Court reversed.  After concluding that § 15-1441(I) met the first two prongs of the Republic Investment test, and agreeing that the statute is facially elastic, the Court disagreed with the court of appeals’ conclusion “that the elasticity prong requires that it be reasonably probable that potential class members will enter the class within a particular time.”  The Court noted that, in deriving the temporal requirement, the court of appeals had relied on cases where the “class under consideration was already closed when the legislature passed the act in question.”  Because future entry into the class was impossible in those cases, the Court reasoned, “any suggestion that entry of others into the class must be ‘reasonably probable’ of attainment was dictum.”  The Court observed that other courts have not been able to “incorporate a probability or temporal element into the elasticity requirement in any discernibly consistent way,” and then disavowed “any suggestion that entry into the class within a particular time is a requirement of the elasticity prong of the special-laws analysis.”  The Court ultimately held that “the elasticity requirement is met when the statute looks to broader application in the future, no matter how imminent the application might be, and allows ‘persons, places, or things attaining the requisite characteristics’ to enter and those that ‘no longer have those characteristics’ to leave the class.”  Applying this standard, the Court found that the class at issue was facially and functionally elastic because any county that attains a population of three million will enter the class and any county whose population falls below three million will leave the class.  Because the three parts of the Republic Investment test were satisfied, the Court concluded that § 15-1441(I) does not violate the special laws provision of the Arizona Constitution. 

Justice Berch authored the Court’s unanimous opinion.