Civil Procedure: Subject Matter Jurisdiction to Enforce Office of Administrative Hearings Directives
Whitmer v. Hilton Casitas Homeowner's Assoc., 795 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 20 (App. Div. I, July 10, 2018) (J. Cattani)
WHERE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS HAS NO JURISDICTION TO ENFORCE ITS DIRECTIVES THE SUPERIOR COURT AS A COURT OF GENERAL JURISDICTION HAS ORIGINAL JURISDICTION TO DO SO.
Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings [OAH] pursuant to A.R.S. §§32-2199 to -2199.05 alleging his homeowner's association [HOA] had overspent on legal fees without first getting the homeowners' approval as required by A.R.S. §33-1243(D). The Administrative Law Judge ruled in plaintiff's favor and ordered the defendant HOA to comply with the statute. Plaintiff then brought this lawsuit claiming defendant had failed to comply with the OAH directive and asked the Arizona Superior Court to hold the defendant in contempt. The superior court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Ariz. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) finding it had no subject matter jurisdiction and that instead the OAH had exclusive jurisdiction to do so. The trial court ruled that while it could consider an appeal of the OAH ruling it did not have the ability to enforce that ruling through its contempt powers. The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed and remanded.
A.R.S. §32-2199.02(B) provides that in order to enforce a directive of the OAH contempt proceedings must be instituted. The statutory framework creating the OAH and setting forth what the OAH powers are does not give the agency the authority to conduct contempt proceedings. Accordingly, the court of appeals held that “absent any authority establishing that the administrative tribunal itself has jurisdiction to enforce such orders by contempt or
otherwise, we hold that the superior court has subject matter jurisdiction to do so . . . . the superior court is a court of general jurisdiction and has ‘original jurisdiction of . . . [c]ases and proceedings in which exclusive jurisdiction is not vested by law in another court.' Ariz. Const. art. 6, §14(1);”