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Morales v. Archibald - 4/25/2019

Arizona Supreme Court holds that challenge to recall petition may be brought only to challenge number of signatures certified and that in a recall petition, the date-and-time-stamped copy of the petition application must accompany the petition signature sheets.


A committee of electors sought to recall a City of Phoenix councilman, filed an application for a recall petition and gathered signatures for the recall.  The city clerk certified that the petition had sufficient signatures.  A different elector then challenged the recall petition because it failed to attach the official, time-and-date-marked copy of the recall application, did not attach the petition form to the application, and the petition sheets did not include specific statutory language.  The committee sought to dismiss, arguing that the elector did not have a statutory cause of action to challenge the recall petition.  The superior court concluded that the elector had a private right of action to challenge the committee’s failure to attach time-and-date-marked copies of the recall application to signature pages only and held the recall petition did not have sufficient signatures because the committee did not do so.

On appeal the elector appealed the superior court’s ruling that she did not have a broad right to challenge numerous aspects of the recall petition beyond the number of signatures certified.  The committee appealed the superior court’s ruling that the petitions did not comply with statutory requirements to include time-and-date-marked copies of the recall application with signature pages.  First, the Supreme Court rejected the elector’s claim to a broad, private right of action to challenge recall petitions, reasoning that the plain language of the statute authorized only challenges to the number of signatures certified.  It also concluded that a broad right to challenge was inconsistent with prior holdings declining to grant the same challenge rights to recalls as to initiatives and referenda.  Second, the Supreme Court held that the plain statutory text required the committee to attach time-and-date-marked copies of the recall application to the petition sheets, otherwise the signatures collected are invalid.  The Supreme Court further held that it was not sufficient that the petition sheets reproduced the application’s basis for recalling the city councilman because the time-and-date-marked copy of the recall application identified the applicant, reflected that the application has been filed, and ensured that signatures were not collected prior to the filing of the application.

Chief Justice Bales authored the opinion; Vice Chief Justice Brutinel and Justices Timmer, Bolick, Gould, Lopez and Pelander joined.

Posted by: William D. Furnish

Posted On: 5/20/2019