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Powers v. Isley

Supreme Court of Arizona

July 11, 1947

POWERS et al.
v.
ISLEY et al

Appeal from Superior Court, Maricopa County; Levi S. Udall, Judge.

Reversed.

Snell, Strouss & Wilmer, of Phoenix, for appellants.

Edwin Beauchamp, Co. Atty., and Eugene K. Mangum, Deputy Co. Atty., both of Phoenix, for appellees.

Patterson, Superior Judge. Stanford, C. J., and La Prade, J., concur. Udall, J., having presided in the trial of this case, the Honorable W. E. Patterson, Judge of the Superior Court of Yavapai County, was called to sit in his stead.

OPINION

Patterson, Superior Judge.

Page 881

[66 Ariz. 96] This is an action for declaratory judgment brought by the appellants who are the official court reporters of the divisions of the Superior Court of Maricopa County. The action was brought against the Board of Supervisors of Maricopa County in their official capacity as members of such board.

The complaint alleged, in substance, that judges of the Superior Court of Maricopa County on the first day of April, 1944, by a joint order and act, fixed the salary of appellants at $ 3600 per annum and thereupon notified the appellees, as members of the Board of Supervisors, of their action. It was further alleged that the salary so fixed constituted an increase in the salary of each of the appellants and that the salary fixed by said judges was not unreasonable and that their action in fixing it was not capricious or arbitrary. It was alleged that appellees approved the salary of appellants which had been fixed by said Superior Court Judges in the sum of $ 3600 per year, at the sum of $ 3300 per year, and said supervisors refused to allow or approve the amount as fixed by said Superior Court Judges. It was further alleged that a controversy had arisen between the parties hereto as to the meaning, force and effect of Sec. 19-404, A.C.A.1939, with appellants contending that said section confers authority upon the judges of the respective Superior Courts to fix the salary of the official court reporters of such court provided that the salary fixed by the judge must be reasonable and not based upon a capricious or arbitrary act of the court. On the other hand it was the position of the appellees that they enjoy and are entitled to an equal voice with the judges in fixing the amount of salary and that they are entitled to refuse to accept the action

Page 882

of the respective Superior Court Judges even though the same may be reasonable and fair.

[66 Ariz. 97] A further controversy was alleged to exist in that the appellants claim that their salary and the matter of its increase is not within the restrictions of what is commonly referred to as the budget law, while appellees contended that the budget law is applicable and that no increase can be granted if the effect of it is to create an indebtedness which was not provided for in the budget and also if the result is to increase the amount which must be set up in the new budget in excess of 10% of the amount previously provided.

The appellees filed a motion to dismiss the complaint of appellants upon the ground that the same failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, thereby presenting for the determination of the trial court a legal issue as to the proper construction of the statutes aforesaid.

The trial judge of the Superior Court made and entered his Memorandum Opinion and Order granting appellees' motion to dismiss the complaint, which, in so far as pertinent, is as follows:

"This controversy between the parties presents a justiciable issue which can properly be determined under the provisions of the Declaratory Judgment Act. The court holds that the defense of the attempted raise of salary being violative of the budget law is without merit. There may be merit to the objection that the Legislature in attempting to delegate to the Court the power to fix reporter's salaries were imposing upon the court a nonjudicial function, which is not permitted by the Constitution of Arizona.

"Primarily, however, it seems to the Court that the decision in this case must turn upon the question of the statutory interpretation of the provisions of Section 19-404, ACA, 1939. Unfortunately the Legislature in enacting this law governing reporters' salaries, did not use very apt language to express their meaning. The proviso that the salary 'shall be fixed by the Judge of the Court' is somewhat inconsistent with the later provision that this action is subject to the 'approval of the Board of Supervisors of the County.' This leaves the matter of interpretation not free from doubt or difficulty.

* * *

"I am unable to escape the conclusion that the law as written gives the final say in the salary matter to the Board of Supervisors. The clause 'approval of the board of supervisors', in my opinion, is not a meaningless phrase. The fact that they are required to approve the salary fixed by the Court, necessarily implies that they may also disapprove. It would seem that the 1921 amendment of this law more clearly stated the legislative intent when it said 'which salary shall be effective when approved by the board of supervisors of the county.'

* * *

"Being of the opinion that the Court does not have the entire authority and power to [66 Ariz. 98] fix the salary of the Court Reporter who is undoubtedly 'a ministerial officer of the Court,' and that the Board of Supervisors, who are the business and fiscal agents of the county, do have a discretion to approve, reduce or increase the salary fixed by the Court, it follows that the defendants' motion to dismiss should be granted."

Judgment was duly entered in accordance with the foregoing memorandum in which the court directed that the complaint be dismissed and that appellants take nothing thereby, an appeal being taken by appellants from said judgment.

Appellants make three assignments of error as follows:

"1. The trial court erred in dismissing the complaint of appellants and in ordering judgment for appellees and entering formal judgment for appellees dismissing the complaint of appellants, for the reason that the action of the Superior Court judges of the Superior Court of the County of Maricopa, State of Arizona, in fixing the salary of these appellants was a lawful action and the appellees as members of and constituting the Board of Supervisors of Maricopa County, Arizona, had no right, authority, or jurisdiction than to do more than approve the salary so fixed, unless the same were found to be unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious.

Page 883

"2. The trial court erred in ordering the dismissal of appellants' complaint and in entering judgment for the appellees for the reason that the appellees had no authority under the provisions of Section 19-404, ACA, 1939 to do more than either approve or reject the salary as fixed by the judges of the Superior Court for their respective court reporters, and if the salary so fixed is reasonable ...


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