Mohave County v. Ariz. Dep’t Water Res. (6/20/2017)
Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that the limitation on fees in A.R.S. § 12-348(E)(4) does not apply to an award of attorneys’ fees under A.R.S. § 12-348.01.
Mohave County and the Arizona Department of Water Resources (“ADWR”) litigated and appealed a dispute concerning the transfer of water rights. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled against Mohave County and awarded attorneys’ fees to ADWR under A.R.S. § 12-348.01. It remanded to the superior court to determine the amount of the fee award. ADWR requested $135,000 in fees. Mohave County argued that A.R.S. § 12-348(E)(4) capped the fee award at $10,000. The superior court awarded $10,000 in fees and ADWR appealed.
The Court of Appeals held that the $10,000 limit on fees in A.R.S. § 12-348(E)(4) does not apply to fee awards under A.R.S. § 12-348.01. A.R.S. § 12-348.01 provides that “[n]otwithstanding [A.R.S.] section 12-348,” if a county “files a lawsuit against” a state agency, “the court shall award reasonable attorney fees to the successful party in the action.” A.R.S. § 12-348(E)(4) provides that “an award of fees against a city, town or county as provided in this section shall not exceed ten thousand dollars.” The Court of Appeals held that the “notwithstanding” text in A.R.S. § 12-348.01 does not import limits from another section. Also, the cap in A.R.S. § 12-348(E)(4) is limited to awards provided under that section. The court remanded for a new determination of fees because the superior court did not expressly accept or rely on the $10,000 statutory limit.
Presiding Judge Thumma authored opinion; Judges Winthrop and Beene concurred.