Ramos v. Nichols – 1/25/2022

February 2, 2022

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One sanctions litigant for failure to satisfy ARCAP Rule 13.

In 2018, the Arizona Corporation Commission (“the Commission”) began investigating a man for securities fraud.  The Commission initiated an administrative proceeding for a temporary order to halt the man’s improper conduct, and the man responded by filing a lawsuit and seeking an injunction against the Commission and some of its employees.  The man argued that the Commission’s investigation was fraudulent.  The Commission moved to dismiss, and the superior court granted that motion.  The man appealed, but the court of appeals affirmed.

While the man’s lawsuit was proceeding through the courts, a Commission ALJ found that the man had committed securities fraud.  The Commission approved the ALJ’s findings.  The man did not appeal the Commission’s decision.

Instead, eight months later, the man filed a second lawsuit in superior court.  This complaint tracked the original, seeking an injunction against the Commission as well as making a “public information request.”  The Commission again moved to dismiss, and the superior court again granted the motion.  The man appealed.

The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court and issued sanctions against the man.  The Court did not need to deal with difficult legal questions; instead, it found the man’s opening brief did not satisfy ARCAP 13 because it failed to event attempt to cite to the record or legal authority.  In short, it contained no argument, but relied on personal attacks against the Commission, referring to its employees as rats and punks.  Indeed, the man compared the Commission’s actions against him to the murder of George Floyd and the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, going so far as to attach a picture of one of the rioters in jail.  None of this advanced the man’s legal argument.  As such, the brief fell below the requirements of ARCAP 13, and that failure resulted in the waiver of all his possible arguments on appeal.

Because of that waiver, the man had effectively filed a frivolous appeal.  As such, the Court sanctioned the man by ordering him to pay the Commission’s reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred for having to respond to the man’s appeal.  Further, for the man’s abusive polemics, the Court fined the man $500 under its Rule 25 authority, to be paid directly to the Court.

Judge Howe authored the opinion for the court, joined by Judges Furuya and Brown.