Articles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court

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In this case involving substantial consequences for alleged violations of campaign finance laws, the same individual issued the initial decision finding violations and ordering remedies, participated personally in the prosecution of the case before an administrative law judge, and then made the final agency decision that would receive only deferential review. The court of appeals concluded that because Appellants made no showing of actual bias their due process rights were not violated by the individual’s role as both advocate and adjudicator. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals, holding that, although Appellants did not allege actual bias, the circumstances of this case deprived them of due process, as Appellants were entitled to a determination by a neutral decisionmaker. Remanded. View "Horne v. Polk" on Justia Law

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The police conducted a pat-down search of Defendant based on the dangerousness of the area in which he was found and the flight of one of Defendant’s companions. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the search was proper. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and reversed Defendant’s conviction of misdemeanor marijuana possession, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances of this case, the police did not have an individualized reasonable suspicion that Defendant was engaged in criminal activity and that Defendant was armed and dangerous sufficient to justify the pat-down search. View "State v. Primous" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the postconviction court’s grant of relief to Appellant. The postconviction court set aside Defendant’s death sentence for the murder of Holly Iler, finding ineffective assistance of counsel and a due process violation. The court ordered a new aggravation and penalty phase sentencing trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the evidence did not establish ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) on any of Defendant’s multiple IAC claims, and no aggregate IAC occurred here; and (2) the postconviction court erred in finding a due process violation based on testimony by the State’s medical expert because the expert did not present objectively false or misleading testimony. View "State v. Pandeli" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder and one count of first degree burglary. The jury sentenced Defendant to death for each murder. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences, holding (1) the trial court properly denied Defendant’s motion alleging that Arizona’s death penalty statute is unconstitutional without holding an evidentiary hearing; (2) the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument at the penalty phase did not constitute fundamental error; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it revoked Defendant’s self-representation after Defendant refused to proceed with jury selection on the scheduled trial date; (4) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s request for new counsel without holding an evidentiary hearing; and (5) Defendant’s death sentence was appropriate. View "State v. Hidalgo" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the constitutionality of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 28-1321(C), which allows law enforcement officers to make or direct nonconsensual blood draws from unconscious DUI suspects. Defendant was driving an SUV that was involved in a two-vehicle collision in Arizona. Defendant was airlifted to a Nevada hospital for treatment. Without seeking a warrant, a law enforcement officer instructed Department of Public Safety dispatch to request that Las Vegas police officers obtain a blood sample from Defendant. Defendant was unconscious when the blood sample was taken. Defendant was subsequently charged with numerous offenses, including aggravated driving under the extreme influence of intoxicating liquor with a suspended license. Defendant moved to suppress the results of his blood test, arguing that the statute authorizing his blood draw while unconscious violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed the denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress, holding (1) section 28-1321(C) is unconstitutional as applied to the facts of this case; and (2) under Arizona law, the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule would not apply in this case. Remanded to the trial court to determine whether Nevada or Arizona law applies and, if it is Nevada law, whether it supports application of the good-faith exception. View "State v. Havatone" on Justia Law

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The Arizona Constitution and related laws forbid bail for defendants accused of sexual conduct with a minor under the age of fifteen when the proof is evident or the presumption great that the defendant committed such a crime. Defendant in this case was charged with multiple sexual offenses. Defendant petitioned to be released on bail, but the trial court concluded that the proof was evident and the presumption great that Defendant committed sexual conduct with a minor under the age of fifteen, rendering him ineligible for bail. Defendant challenged the facial constitutionality of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-3961(A)(3) and the corresponding provision of the Arizona Constitution, article 2, section 22(A)(1). The trial court denied relief. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that the provisions were unconstitutional because an individualized determination of dangerousness is necessary to withhold bail. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision and vacated the court of appeals’ opinion, holding that the provisions at issue are unconstitutional on their face because they are not narrowly focused to protect public safety. Remanded. View "Simpson v. Hon. Phemonia Miller" on Justia Law

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The two defendants in this case were juveniles when they fatally shot their victims. Defendants were each convicted of first degree murder. Defendants were sentenced to natural life imprisonment under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-703, meaning they were not eligible for release. After Miller v. Alabama was decided, each defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief under Ariz. R. Crim. P. 32.1(g). In each case, the trial court summarily denied relief, concluding that the sentencing court had complied with Miller and that any constitutional infirmity in Arizona’s sentencing scheme had been resolved by 2014 statutory amendments. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals, reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the petitions for post-conviction relief, and remanded for further proceedings, holding that Defendants were entitled to evidentiary hearings on their Rule 32.1(g) petitions because they made colorable claims for relief based on Miller. View "State v. Valencia" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the warrantless search of the residence of Defendant, a probationer. As a result of the search Defendant was charged with felony possession of narcotic drugs for sale and other offenses. Defendant sought to suppress the items seized during the search. The trial court ultimately granted Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the probation search was not supported by a reasonable suspicion and did not have a sufficient legal basis. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a warrantless search of a probationer’s residence complies with the Fourth Amendment if it is reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, and its legality does not depend on whether the search is supported by reasonable suspicion; and (2) under the totality of the circumstances, the warrantless search conducted in this case was reasonable and thus constitutional. View "State v. Adair" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the Arizona Legislature enacted Senate Bill 1609, which changed the Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan by changing the formula for calculating future benefit increases for retired Plan members and increased the amount that employed Plan members must contribute toward their pensions. Employed members of the Plan challenged the Bill, arguing that the unilateral changes to the benefit increases formula and to the amount they were required to contribute toward their pensions violated the Pension Clause and that the legislature could not unilaterally change the terms of their pensions to their detriment. The trial court agreed and invalidated the provisions at issue. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the employed Plan members, holding that the Bill’s change to the benefit increases formula and the contribution rate violates the Pension Clause and the Court’s holding in Yeazell v. Copins; and (2) contrary to the trial court’s ruling, the employed members are entitled to attorneys’ fees and prejudgment interest, and the judgment must run against the State as well as the Plan. View "Honorable Philip Hall v. Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan" on Justia Law

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For many years, the City of Phoenix has contracted in collective bargaining agreements with police officers to pay officers for certain time spent on behalf of a police union (“release time”) rather than regular police duties. Taxpayers sued the City, allowing that four release time provisions in a 2012 collective bargaining agreement violated the Gift Clause of the Arizona Constitution. The trial court issued a permanent injunction, ruling that the provisions violate the Gift Clause because they lack a public purpose and are not support by adequate consideration. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the challenged release time provisions do not violate the Gift Clause. View "Cheatham v. DiCiccio" on Justia Law