In re the Matter of the Jury Selection Process in Maricopa County – 2/26/2009

March 30, 2009

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds Division One Holds It Has No Jurisdiction to Review Mass Compilation of Issues Submitted Under One Cause Number.

Pursuant to A.R.S. §§ 21-312 & 313, the jury selection process must be random.  In 2002, the Maricopa County Superior Court instituted a new jury selection system that regionalized the jury selection process, rather than having it be countywide.  In 2006, when the details of the new system became public, the Maricopa County Superior Court was deluged with motions in over thirty separate cases arguing the new system violated the requirements of A.R.S. §§ 21-312 & 313.  In an exercise in judicial economy, Presiding Judge Barbara Rodriguez combined the separate motions under one new cause number and submitted the issue to Pima County Judge William O’Neil, who found the jury selection system did not violate the statutory scheme.

On appeal, Arizona Court of Appeals Division One held that it had no jurisdiction to review this ruling.  The Court found no party had provided the court with authority giving it jurisdiction, because this case was neither an appeal from a final judgment nor a declaratory action.  In addition, the court held the below ruling could not be certified for appeal under Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), because the ruling did not finally resolve anyone’s claim at issue, which Rule 54 requires.

The Court noted it could exercise its discretion to take special action jurisdiction where it does not have appellate jurisdiction.  However, the Court declined to do so in this case, because it felt granting special action jurisdiction would be an improper circumvention of the Rules of Civil Procedure for creating an appealable action.  The Court also noted that, even if it did accept jurisdiction, it would be limited to reviewing whether the jury selection system breached the statutory requirement to be random, but would have no ability to determine if any individual party was actually prejudiced by any alleged breach.  Without knowing which parties were prejudiced, the Court would have no basis to award relief.  Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.

Judge Daniel Barker authored the opinion, with Presiding Judge Brown and Judge Gemmill concurring.