Johnson v. Arizona Registrar of Contractors – 5/25/2017
Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that A.R.S. § 12-904(A) requires a party appealing a decision of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors to file a notice of appeal with the superior court, not the Registrar.
A homeowner (Johnson) filed a recovery fund claim with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors seeking an award for deficient work performed by a licensed contractor on her home. The Registrar denied Johnson’s claim. An administrative law judge upheld the Registrar’s denial, which became final on September 15, 2015.
Under A.R.S. § 12-904(A), Johnson had until October 26, 2015 to file an appeal from the Registrar’s decision. Johnson filed a notice of appeal with the Registrar on October 14, but did not file a notice of appeal with the superior court until October 27.
The Registrar moved to dismiss Johnson’s superior court appeal as untimely under A.R.S. § 12-904(A). Johnson conceded that her notice of appeal with the superior court was untimely by one day. She argued, however, that the court should treat the appeal as timely because § 12-904(A) does not specify whether the notice must be filed with the Registrar or superior court, and she had timely filed a notice of appeal with the former. The superior court disagreed and dismissed the appeal.
The Court of Appeals, Division One, affirmed. The Court found that § 12-904(A)’s text, the applicable judicial rules, and overall statutory scheme confirmed that a party appealing from a decision of the Registrar must file a notice of appeal with the superior court, rather than directly with the Registrar.
Section 12-904(A) instructs an appeal party to “commence” an “action” by filing a notice of appeal. The Court concluded that, on its face, the statute requires filing in superior court because “action” is statutorily defined to mean “any matter or proceeding in a court, civil or criminal.” A.R.S. § 1-215(1). The Court further noted that the applicable Rules of Procedure for Judicial Review of Administrative Decisions also refer to an “action” as a court proceeding. Finally, the Court observed that even if § 12-904(A)’s text were unclear, the overall statutory scheme underscores that the notice of appeal must be filed in superior court because allowing a party to file directly with the Registrar would make other related statutory provisions meaningless.
Judge Norris wrote for the Court; Presiding Judge Jones and Judge McMurdie joined.
Editorial note: A petition is currently pending that would substantially rewrite the Rules of Procedure for Judicial Review of Administrative Decisions. Proposed JRAD Rule 4(a) addresses the issue in this appeal. See Rule Change Petition No. R-17-0013 (Jan. 5, 2017).