Grosvenor Holdings, L.C. v. Superior Court – 10/26/2009

October 26, 2009

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds That Parties Cannot Submit Disputes to Judicial Proceedings Under the Administrative Review Act Without Statutory Authorization.

After the Board denied a requested extension of the agreement, the developer filed a complaint in Superior Court seeking declaratory relief.  The County treated the complaint as a notice of review under the ARA, which provides for judicial review to determine whether agency decisions are illegal, arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion.  See A.R.S. § 12-910(E).  The developer sought partial summary judgment that the ARA did not apply.

The Superior Court denied the motion, finding that the County could voluntarily submit its decisions to ARA review.  But, because there had been no hearing before the Board, and no final administrative order to review, the Superior Court remanded the matter to the Board for further proceedings.  The developer petitioned for special action review.

The Court of Appeals accepted jurisdiction and granted relief. 

The ARA does not apply to decisions by a “political subdivision or municipal corporation” or their agencies.  A.R.S § 12-901(1).  The County conceded that its decisions were not subject to ARA review as a matter of right, but argued that it could nonetheless voluntarily subject its decisions to ARA review.

The Court of Appeals, however, concluded that the County could not invoke the ARA absent statutory authorization.  Parties cannot, by agreement, confer subject matter jurisdiction on the Superior Court.  Similarly, parties cannot by agreement limit the court’s jurisdiction, which would be the effect of treating the developer’s de novo complaint as a request for judicial review under the ARA.  The development agreement’s invocation of judicial review under the ARA was therefore void.  The appeals court vacated the order denying partial summary judgment and directed the Superior Court to process the complaint as a de novo complaint.

Presiding Judge Espinosa wrote the opinion; Judges Brammer and Eckerstrom concurred.