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Stambaugh v. Killian

Supreme Court of Arizona

August 3, 2017

David Stambaugh, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
Mark Killian, 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 The Honorable John Christian Rea, Judge No. CV2012-017523

         Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division One 240 Ariz. 353 (App. 2016)

          Paul R. Orme, Mark A. McGinnis (argued), R. Jeffrey Heilman, Salmon Lewis & Weldon, PLC, Phoenix, Attorneys for David Stambaugh

          Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, Kathleen P. Sweeney, Senior Appellate Counsel, Christopher William McCormack (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix, Attorneys for Mark Killian, the Arizona Department of Agriculture, Suzette Taylor, and the State of Arizona

          JUSTICE BRUTINEL authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER, JUSTICES TIMMER, BOLICK, and GOULD, and JUDGE PETERSON [*] joined.

          OPINION

          BRUTINEL JUSTICE

         ¶1 Arizona Revised Statute § 3-1261(B) provides that no two brands of the same design or figure shall be adopted or recorded. Nonetheless, the Arizona Department of Agriculture ("Department") allowed Eureka Springs to record a "bar seven" brand (-7), even though it was identical to a previously recorded brand owned by David Stambaugh, because it was placed on a different location on the animals. We hold that the plain language of the statute precludes the Department from recording "two brands of the same design or figure" regardless of their location.

         I. BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Eureka Springs planned to move its bar-seven branded cattle from California to Arizona. Rather than re-brand the cattle, it applied to the Department to use the bar seven brand in Arizona. Stambaugh had previously recorded an identical brand in Arizona. Eureka Springs' cattle, however, are branded on their left rib, and Stambaugh's cattle are branded on their left hip. Because the brands are identical, the Department's brand clerk twice rejected Eureka Springs' application but was eventually overruled by her supervisors. Because the brands were placed on different locations on the cattle, the Department approved Eureka Springs' brand.

         ¶3 When the Department publicly advertised Eureka Springs' request to record its brand pursuant to A.R.S. § 3-1261 (C), Stambaugh filed a protest. The Department rejected the protest and issued a certificate to Eureka Springs approving and recording its bar seven brand applied to the left rib.

         ¶4 Stambaugh sued the Department, and both parties moved for summary judgment. The superior court granted the Department's 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 an administrative hearing on the brand and the protest.

         ¶5 The court of appeals affirmed, holding that A.R.S. § 3-1261(B) is ambiguous. Stambaugh v. Butler, 240 Ariz. 353, 356 ¶ 11, 358 ¶ 18 (App. 2016). Because the brands are in separate locations, the court reasoned they are not identical, and the Department therefore did not violate § 3-1261 when it approved Eureka Springs' brand. See id. at 357 ¶ 14. One judge dissented, reasoning that the phrase "design or figure" is unambiguous and "excludes consideration of placement; both 'design' and 'figure' are defined to include only a pattern, shape, or pictorial representation." Id. at 358 ¶ 20 (Jones, J., dissenting).

         ¶6 We granted review because this case presents an issue of statewide importance that is likely to recur. We have jurisdiction pursuant to article 6, section 5(3), of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. § 12-120.24.

         II. ...


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