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State ex rel. Montgomery v. Welty

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department B

August 6, 2013

STATE OF ARIZONA ex rel. WILLIAM G. MONTGOMERY, Maricopa County Attorney, Petitioner,
v.
THE HONORABLE JOSEPH WELTY, Judge of the SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA, in and for the County of MARICOPA, Respondent Judge, JAMES DEAN KOONTZ, Real Party in Interest. STATE OF ARIZONA ex rel. WILLIAM G. MONTGOMERY, Maricopa County Attorney, Petitioner,
v.
THE HONORABLE HARRIET CHAVEZ, Judge of the SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA, in and for the County of MARICOPA, Respondent Judge, ROBERT LEE GILL, Real Party in Interest.

Petition for Special Action From the Maricopa County Superior Court Cause Nos. CR2013-415870-001; CR2013-001185-001, The Honorable Joseph Welty, Judge The Honorable Harriet Chavez, Judge.

William G. Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney Phoenix By Keli B. Luther, Deputy County Attorney Attorneys for Petitioner

Dwane Cates Law Group PLLC Phoenix By W. Pierce Sargeant IV Attorneys for Real Party in Interest Koontz

James J. Haas, Maricopa County Public Defender Phoenix By Christopher Manberg, Deputy Public Defender Mikel Steinfeld, Deputy Public Defender Attorneys for Real Party in Interest Gill.

OPINION

RANDALL M. HOWE, Presiding Judge.

¶1 In this consolidated special action, the State seeks relief from the trial courts' order compelling the disclosure of victims' birth dates to the Real Parties in Interest. We accept jurisdiction and grant relief because victims' birth dates are personally identifying information protected by the Victims' Bill of Rights.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 The first Real Party in Interest, James Dean Koontz, is charged with one count of aggravated assault, a class 6 felony, for assaulting his girlfriend's six-year-old child. Because the child is a minor, her parents are also victims. Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 13-4403(C) (West 2013) . [1]

¶3 The State disclosed the Phoenix Police Department report to Koontz but redacted the parents' birth dates. Koontz requested the birth dates so that his counsel could run a conflict check. The State refused to disclose the information, but offered to otherwise assist counsel in determining the parents' identities for purposes of the conflict check. Koontz refused the offer and moved to compel discovery of the parents' birth dates or to allow his counsel to withdraw because counsel could not run a conflict check. At the hearing on the motion, the trial court denied Koontz's motion to compel but granted the motion to withdraw. Koontz then withdrew his motion to withdraw and again moved to compel discovery, now arguing that he had a due process right to the parents' birth dates. The trial court granted Koontz's motion, ruling that the State had no authority to withhold the birth dates.

¶4 The second Real Party in Interest, Robert Lee Gill, is charged with three counts of Theft of Means of Transportation, class 3 felonies. The State disclosed the Phoenix Police Department report to Gill but redacted the victims' birth dates. Gill requested the redacted information to run a conflict check. The State refused, but offered to otherwise assist counsel in determining the victims' identities for purposes of the conflict check. Gill refused the offer and moved to compel discovery of the birth dates. The trial court denied the motion as premature because counsel had yet to run a conflict check using the victims' names. After counsel ran the check, Gill moved to reconsider his motion to compel. The trial court reconsidered the motion and ordered the birth dates disclosed because no statute or rule allowed the State to withhold that information.

¶5 The State filed separate petitions for special action challenging the orders. We stayed the orders in both cases and consolidated the petitions for our review. We have jurisdiction because the State has no adequate remedy by appeal, State ex rel. Romley v. Dairman, 208 Ariz. 484, 485 2, 95 P.3d 548, 549 (App. 2004), and this issue presented is one of first impression that has statewide importance that is likely to reoccur, Ariz. St. Hosp. v. Klein, 231 Ariz. 467, 470 ¶ 9, 296 P.3d 1003, 1006 (App. 2013).

DISCUSSION

¶6 The State argues that the trial courts erred by ordering the disclosure of the victims' birth dates.[2] We review a ruling on a motion to compel for an abuse of discretion, Romley v. Schneider, 202 Ariz. 362, 363 ¶ 5, 45 P.3d 685, 686 (App. 2002), and issues of constitutional law and statutory interpretation de novo, State v. Roque, 213 Ariz. 193, 217 ¶ 89, 141 P.3d 368, 392 (2006). A trial court abuses its discretion if it makes an error of law in reaching its discretionary decision. State v. Burns, 231 Ariz. 563, 564 ¶ 6, 298 P.3d 911, 912 (App. 2013).

¶7The State based its refusal to disclose the victims' birth dates on the Victims' Bill of Rights, an amendment to the Arizona Constitution adopted "[t]o preserve and protect victims' rights to justice and due process." Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 2.1(A); see also State v. Roscoe, 185 Ariz. 68, 70, 912 P.2d 1297, 1299 (1996) (discussing the history of the Victims' Bill of Rights and related statutes and court rules). Among the constitutional rights granted to victims are the rights "[t]o be treated with fairness, respect, and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, or abuse, throughout the criminal justice process, " Ariz. Const. art. 2, ยง 2.1(A)(1), and "[t]o refuse an interview, deposition, or ...


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