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Prutch v. Town of Quartzsite - 2/26/2013

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That The Defense Of Laches Requires Proof of Prejudicial Delay And Unreasonable Conduct.

John Prutch filed a special action in Maricopa County Superior Court challenging a resolution passed by the Quartzsite Town Council.  The resolution declared Mike Jewitt the winner of an election to fill a vacancy on the Town Council.  Prutch sought to have Jewitt removed from the Town Council, alleging that the council had fraudulently misrepresented the election as a special election.

Quartzsite filed a notice of improper venue and the Maricopa County Superior Court dismissed the case.  Upon a motion for reconsideration, the court reinstated the case and transferred it to the La Paz County Superior Court.

In La Paz County, Quartzsite moved to dismiss the special action, arguing that the doctrine of laches barred the complaint.  The La Paz County Superior Court found that a delayed election challenge caused prejudice and therefore granted the motion to dismiss.  Prutch appealed.

The Court of Appeals exercised its discretion to review the case even though the general election had occurred. The Court noted that the “defense of laches bars a claim, when, under the totality of circumstances, the delay in prosecuting the claim ‘would produce an unjust result.’”  The defense of laches requires proof of both prejudicial delay and unreasonable conduct.  The trial court, however, had explicitly refused to find that Prutch acted unreasonably and based its finding of laches solely on prejudice.  The Court of Appeals therefore vacated the dismissal and remanded for further proceedings.   The Court declined to address the merits of the Complaint. 

Judge Howe authored the opinion; Judges Portley and Orozco concurred.

Posted by: Grace Rebling

Posted On: 3/5/2013