from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable John
Christian Rea, Judge No. CV2012-017523
of the Court of Appeals, Division One 240 Ariz. 353 (App.
R. Orme, Mark A. McGinnis (argued), R. Jeffrey Heilman,
Salmon Lewis & Weldon, PLC, Phoenix, Attorneys for David
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.