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Secure Ventures, LLC v. Johnson - 5/5/2020

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that jurisdiction for forcible detainers brought by an owner who acquired title through a trustee’s sale rests solely with superior courts, and not justice courts.

A home was bought at a trustee’s sale.  The buyer served the occupants with a notice to vacate but the occupants would not leave.  The buyer then filed a forcible detainer action in justice court, which issued a judgment of eviction.  The occupants appealed to the superior court, which affirmed.  They then appealed to the Court of Appeals, which dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction.  They then filed an expedited petition for review.  The Supreme Court granted a stay of judgment and remanded for the superior court to consider whether the justice court had jurisdiction under A.R.S. § 12-1173.01.  On remand, the superior court found the justice court lacked jurisdiction to hear a forcible detainer action brought by an owner who acquired title in a trustee’s sale.  The buyer then filed a special action in the Court of Appeals.   

The Court of Appeals accepted jurisdiction and denied relief.  Under A.R.S. § 12-1173.01, a “person who retains possession of any land, tenements, or other real property after he receives written demand of possession may be removed through a action for forcible detainer filed with the clerk of the superior court . . . [if] the property has been sold through a trustee’s sale under a deed of trust.”  Before this statute was enacted, superior and justice courts had concurrent jurisdiction under A.R.S. § 12-1173.  The plain language of the newer A.R.S. § 12-1173.01, however, evinces a legislative intent to require post-trustee’s sale forcible detainer actions to be filed exclusively in superior court.  The Court acknowledge that even if this conflicts with general practice in Arizona since A.R.S. § 12-1173.01, the Court could not disregard the statute’s plain language.

Judge Williams delivered the unanimous opinion of the court.  Judge Brown and Judge Jones joined.

Posted by: Emma J. Cone-Roddy

Posted On: 7/29/2020