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Stambaugh v. Butler

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

August 9, 2016

DAVID STAMBAUGH, Plaintiff/Appellant,
DONALD BUTLER, acting in his capacity as Director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture; ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, an agency of the State of Arizona; SUZETTE TAYLOR, acting in her capacity as State Brand Clerk at the Arizona Department of Agriculture; STATE OF ARIZONA; and EUREKA SPRINGS CATTLE CO., LLC, an Arizona limited liability company and real party in interest, Defendants/Appellees.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CV 2012-017523 The Honorable John Christian Rea, Judge

          Salmon 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 Arizona.

          Judge 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.


          OROZCO, JUDGE

         ¶1 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, we affirm.


         ¶2 Stambaugh is the owner in Arizona of the bar seven brand[1] 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.[2] Therefore, Eureka Springs applied to the Department to use the bar seven brand in Arizona on the left rib.

         ¶3 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.

         ¶4 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.

         ¶5 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).[3]


         ¶6 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 ...

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