Sorokin v. Hon. Arnold/I.T. – 10/27/2009

November 3, 2009

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That A Screening Agency Only Needs to Attach a County Attorney’s Recommendation to a Petition for Court-Ordered Evaluation if the County Attorney Recommends that No Further Screenings Are Warranted.

A health care screening agency filed a petition seeking court-ordered evaluation of a patient, alleging that the patient was a danger to himself and others. Among the statutory requirements for such petitions is A.R.S. § 36-521(G), which states that if a petition alleges the patient is a danger to others, the screening agency shall contact the county attorney for a review of the petition. The county attorney may make one of three recommendations:  1) “a criminal investigation is warranted;” 2) “the screening agency shall file the petition;” and 3) “no further proceedings are a warranted.”  A.R.S. § 36-521(G)(3) states that “[t]he screening agency shall include such recommendation with the petition if it decides to file the petition with the court.”

The health care screening agency did not attach the county attorney’s recommendation to its petition. The Judge Pro Tempore refused to grant the petition, stating that the statutory requirement to attach the county attorney’s recommendation applied regardless of which of the three recommendations were made by the county attorney. The petitioner, the deputy director of the health care screening agency, brought a special action challenging the court’s interpretation of the statute, arguing that the requirement to attach the county attorney’s recommendation applied only when the county attorney recommended that no further proceedings were warranted. The Arizona Appeals Court granted relief to the petitioner, holding that a health care screening agency only needs to attach the county attorney’s recommendation when the county attorney recommends that no further proceedings are warranted.

Judge Timmer authored the opinion; Judges Norris and Orozco concurred.