Kennedy v. Lodge – 8/8/2012

August 13, 2012

Arizona Supreme Court Holds That Courts Will Not Consider Extrinsic Information Provided by Petition Circulators in Determining Whether Nominating Petitions Substantially Comply With Statutory Requirements

The Hon Joseph Lodge, a judge of the Superior Court in Coconino County, submitted nominating petitions to run for election to a new term in that office.  The petitions stated that he was running for the office of “Superior Court” but did not specify that he sought election to Division Five, or for the office of “Judge.”  A qualified elector challenged the nominating petitions, alleging that they fail to comply with A.R.S. §§ 16-314, -331 and -333 by not specifying the office sought.  Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial judge ruled that Lodge’s nominating petitions failed to substantially comply with the applicable statutes and ordered that Lodge’s name not be placed on the ballot.

Lodge appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court pursuant to A.R.S. § 16-351(A).  The Supreme Court affirmed by an order dated June 27, 2012, with this opinion to follow. 

A nominating petition that fails to comply with the statutory requirements “shall have no force or effect.”  A.R.S. § 16-333.  The Supreme Court reviews de novo whether a petition form substantially complies with the statutory requirements.  In doing so, the Court focuses on whether the omission of required information could confuse or mislead electors signing the petition. 

The Court found that omission of the word “judge” could not be misleading here because the only Superior Court office up for election this year is superior court judge.  But the petitions were nonetheless potentially misleading because they failed to specify the Superior Court division for which Lodge was running.  The nominating petitions, therefore, failed to substantially comply with the statutory requirements.

The Court declined to consider extrinsic evidence that petition circulators had provided to electors, specifying the judicial division office sought.  Such extrinsic information could not cure the defect on the face of the petitions. 

Chief Justice Berch authored the opinion; Judges Pelander and Brutinel concurred