from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No.
LC2014-000624-001 The Honorable Crane McClennen, Judge
Arizona Department of Water Resources, Phoenix By Kenneth C.
Slowinksi, Janet L. Miller, Jennifer Heim Counsel for
Chadwick, P.L.C., Tucson By John F. Munger, Robert J. Metli
Co-Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee
Quarles & Brady LLP, Tucson By Adriane J. Hofmeyr
Co-Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee
Presiding Judge Samuel A. Thumma delivered the opinion of the
Court, in which Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop and Judge James P.
This appeal turns on whether an award of attorneys' fees
under Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section 12-348.01
(2017) is subject to the $10, 000 cap in A.R.S.
§ 12-348(E)(4). Because that cap does not apply to such
an award, the fee award is vacated and this matter is
remanded for further proceedings consistent with this
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This matter began when appellee Mohave County filed
objections with appellant Arizona Department of Water
Resources (ADWR) to the transfer of certain water rights.
Mohave County challenged ADWR's denial of those
objections in court. In the end, the Arizona Supreme Court
found ADWR properly denied Mohave County's objections.
Ariz. Dept. of Water Res. v. McClennen, 238 Ariz.
371, 372 ¶ 2 (2015). The court awarded ADWR
attorneys' fees pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-348.01,
"but remand[ed] the case to the superior court for a
determination of the amount of the award." Id.
at 377 ¶ 35.
On remand, ADWR requested approximately $135, 000 in fees.
Mohave County opposed the request, arguing A.R.S. §
12-348(E)(4) capped any award at $10, 000. Tacitly accepting
Mohave County's argument, the superior court awarded ADWR
"attorneys' fees in the amount of $10, 000.00."
ADWR's timely appeal followed.
This court reviews de novo the interpretation of statutes.
See Pima Cty. v. Pima Cty. Law Enft Merit Sys.
Council, 211 Ariz. 224, 227 ¶ 13 (2005). The fee
award to ADWR is made pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-348.01,
which provides that "[notwithstanding [A.R.S.] section
12-348, " if a county "files a lawsuit
against" a state agency, "the court shall award
reasonable attorney fees to the successful party in the
action." A.R.S. § 12-348.01. Mohave County argues
any fee award to ADWR is capped by A.R.S. §
12-348(E)(4), which provides that "an award of fees
against a city, town or county as provided in this section
shall not exceed ten thousand dollars." Focusing on the
text of A.R.S. § 12-348.01, the text of A.R.S. §
12-348(E)(4) and case law construing the two statutes, Mohave
County's argument is not well taken.
First, ADWR was awarded fees pursuant to A.R.S.
§ 12-348.01. Ariz. Dept. of Water Res., 238
Ariz. at 377 ¶ 35. Section 12-348.01 contains no cap
limiting a fee award. Nor does the phrase
"[notwithstanding section 12-348" used in A.R.S.
§ 12-348.01 import such a cap. To the contrary,
"'[notwithstanding' means '[i]n spite of,
'" and the use of that term shows A.R.S. §
12-348.01 is "a self-contained article" dealing
with the issue. Wilshire Ins. Co. v. The Home Ins.
Co., 179 Ariz. 602, 604 (App. 1994) (citation omitted);
see also City of Phx. v. Glenayre Elecs., Inc., No.
CV-16-0126-PR, 2017 WL 1929472, at *4 ¶ 16 (Ariz. 2017)
(noting Legislature "has often used language such as
'notwithstanding any other statute' . . . to indicate
that a particular provision will trump any conflicting
statutes") (citations omitted). Thus, the use of
"[n]othwithstanding section 12-348" in A.R.S.
§ 12-348.01 shows the fee award here is not subject to
the $10, 000 cap in A.R.S. § 12-348(E)(4).
¶6Second, the $10, 000 cap in A.R.S. §
12-348(E)(4) is limited to "an award of fees . . . as
provided in this section" (i.e., A.R.S. §
12-348). But fees were awarded to ADWR pursuant to
A.R.S. § 12-348.01, not A.R.S. § 12-348.
Accordingly, this express language in A.R.S. §
12-348(E)(4) (limiting the cap to fees awarded pursuant to
A.R.S. § 12-348), and the fact that the fee award to