Rash v. Town of Mammoth (12/13/2013)

December 18, 2013

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds That Rule 7, Arizona Rules of Procedure for Special Actions, Does Not Apply to Statutory Special Actions filed in Superior Court, and Thus ARCAP 9(a)’s Time Limit for Filing an Appeal Also Does Not Apply.

Defendant Town of Mammoth (the “Town”) terminated Plaintiff Rash’s employment in March 2011.  Rash appealed that decision to the Pinal county Employee Merit System Commission, which voted on November 29, 2011 to uphold the termination.  The Commission did not provide Rash a written decision until March 31, 2012.  On May 5, 2012, Rash filed a statutory special action in the superior court appealing the Commission’s decision pursuant to A.R.S. § 38-1004(A).  The Town and the Commission moved to dismiss the action arguing that (1) Rash failed to comply with ARCAP 9(a)’s 30-day appeal deadline, and (2) Rash’s action was barred under the doctrine of laches.  The superior court dismissed the case and Rash timely appealed.  

The Arizona Appeals Court vacated and remanded.  The Court first held that ARCAP 9(a) does not apply to statutory special actions filed in superior court.  This is because Ariz. R. P. Spec. Actions 7(i)—which sets forth “Special Appellate Court Provisions” and states that the civil appellate rules generally apply to special action appeals—also does not apply to statutory special actions filed in superior court.  Rule 1(b), Ariz. R. P. Spec. Actions specifies which special action rules apply to statutory special actions:  “the provisions of this Rule as to parties, procedure, interlocutory orders and stays, and judgments shall apply [to statutory special actions].”  The special action rules referenced in Rule 1(b) are Rules 2, 4, 5 and 6—not Rule 7.  Accordingly, under the principle of expression unius est exclusion alterius, Rule 7 cannot apply to statutory special actions.  Furthermore, both the special action rules and the ARCAP make clear that a superior court is not an “appellate court,” and thus the “Special Appellate Court Provisions” set forth in Rule 7 cannot apply to statutory special actions brought in superior court.   

The Court next held that the superior court abused its discretion in applying the doctrine of laches.  The record did not establish that Rash’s delay in bringing the statutory special action was unreasonable or prejudiced the Town.  See Sotomayor v. Burns, 199 Ariz. 81, 83 ¶ 6, 13 P.3d 1198, 1200 (2000).

The Court rejected the Town’s argument that Rash’s statutory special action was untimely under A.R.S. § 12-904(a) of the Administrative Review Act (“ARA”), which imposes a 35-day deadline for appealing an administrative decision.  The Court explained that the ARA did not apply because the Town and the Commission were both political subdivisions or agencies of political subdivisions, see A.R.S. § 12-901(1), and because the ARA does not apply when a statute—like A.R.S. § 38-1004(a)—provides a definite procedure for judicial review.  The Court also rejected the Town’s arguments that Rash failed to comply with other time limits, explaining that no time limits applied to Rash’s statutory special action.  Finally, the Court rejected the Town’s argument that the superior court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the statutory special action.

Chief Judge Howard authored the opinion; Presiding Judge Vásquez and Judge Miller concurred.