from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CV 2012-017523
The Honorable John Christian Rea, Judge
Lewis & Weldon, PLC, Phoenix By Paul R. Orme, Mark A.
McGinnis, R. Jeffrey Heilman Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant.
Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Phoenix By Aaron
Thompson Counsel for Defendants/Appellees, Donald Butler,
Suzette Taylor, Arizona Dept. of Agriculture and State of
Patricia A. Orozco delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen joined, and to which
Judge Kenton D. Jones dissented.
David Stambaugh appeals the superior court's ruling
upholding the recording by Defendants Donald Butler, Suzette
Taylor, the Arizona Department of Agriculture (Department)
and the State of Arizona (collectively, Defendants) of the
Eureka Springs Cattle Co. livestock brand. The Eureka Springs
brand is identical to Stambaugh's brand, but placed in a
different location on the animal. For the following reasons,
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Stambaugh is the owner in Arizona of the bar seven
brand applied to the left hip of his cattle.
Eureka Springs owns the bar seven brand in California applied
to the left rib of its cattle. Eureka Springs wanted to move
its cattle from California to Arizona without rebranding its
herd. Therefore, Eureka Springs applied to the
Department to use the bar seven brand in Arizona on the left
According to the record, the Department in the past has
approved requests to record brands that are identical to
other recorded brands, as long as the new application
specifies that the brand will be placed on a different
location of the animal (i.e., left or right ribs, hip or
shoulder). When it received Eureka Springs' brand
application, the Department researched potential conflicts
and noted Stambaugh's existing bar seven brand. Even
though the Eureka Springs brand is identical to
Stambaugh's, the Department decided to accept Eureka
Springs' brand for recording because its brand would be
placed on a different location; Stambaugh's on the left
hip of a cow and Eureka Springs' on the left rib. The
Department also noted the Eureka Springs brand was not so
similar to any other brand on the left rib that the brand
could be converted or cattle could be misidentified. The
Department then publicly advertised Eureka Springs'
request to record its brand.
After learning of the Eureka Springs application, Stambaugh
filed a protest. The Department denied Stambaugh's
protest and issued a certificate to Eureka Springs signifying
its approval and recording of the bar seven brand applied on
the left ribs of cattle.
Stambaugh then filed suit challenging the Department's
recording of Eureka Springs' bar seven brand, and the
parties moved for summary judgment. The superior court
granted the Defendants' motion in part, explaining that
"A.R.S. § 3-1261 and related statutes give the
[Department] and its employees discretion, as a matter of
law, to consider the location of a brand on an animal in
determining whether two brands are of the same design or
figure." The superior court remanded the matter to the
Department to conduct a hearing on the brand and the protest.
Stambaugh timely appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to
Article 6, Section 9, of the Arizona Constitution, and
Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) sections 12-120.21.A.1 and
-2101.A.1 (West 2016).
We review the grant of summary judgment de novo and view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the party against
whom summary judgment was granted. Andrews v. Blake,205 Ariz. 236, 240, ¶ 12 (2003). We also review issues
of statutory construction de novo. Short v. Dewald,226 Ariz. 88, 93-94, ¶ 26 (App. 2010). "If a
statute's language is clear and unambiguous, we apply it
without resorting to other methods of statutory
interpretation." Hayes v. Cont'l Ins. Co.,178 Ariz. 264, 268 (1994). "However, if more than one
plausible interpretation of a statute exists, we typically
employ tools of statutory interpretation." Haag v.
Steinle,227 Ariz. 212, 214, ¶ 9 (App. 2011). Such
tools include "the statute's context, its language,
subject matter and historical background, its effects and
consequences, and its spirit and purpose." Id.
In addition, when "the legislature has not spoken
definitively to the issue at hand, 'considerable weight
should be accorded to an executive department's
construction of a statutory scheme it is entrusted to
administer.'" Ariz. Water Co. v. Ariz. Dep't
of Water Res.,208 Ariz. 147, 155, ¶ 30 (2004)
(citing Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v.Nat. Resources