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Lay v. Nelson

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

January 24, 2019

JASON WAYNE LAY, Petitioner,
v.
THE HONORABLE ROGER A. NELSON, Judge of the SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA, in and for the County of YUMA, Respondent Judge, STATE OF ARIZONA, Real Party in Interest.

          Petition for Special Action from the Superior Court in Yuma County No. S1400CR201701136 The Honorable Roger A. Nelson, Judge

          Torok Law Office, PLLC, Yuma By Gregory T. Torok Counsel for Petitioner Yuma County Attorney's Office, Yuma By Andrew Orozco Counsel for Real Party in Interest

          Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Linley Wilson Counsel for Amicus Curiae Arizona Attorney General Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Phoenix By Mikel Steinfeld Counsel for Amicus Curiae Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice

          Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Paul J. McMurdie and Judge David D. Weinzweig joined.

          OPINION

          JOHNSEN, JUDGE

         ¶1 A Yuma County justice court convicted Jason Wayne Lay of two misdemeanors. After the superior court affirmed his convictions, Lay petitioned for special action relief, arguing the State had not offered evidence to prove the justice court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the charges. We accept jurisdiction of his petition but deny relief. We agree with Lay that Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") § 22-301 (2019) establishes the subject-matter jurisdiction of an Arizona justice court but conclude the evidence at his trial was sufficient to satisfy that statute.[1]

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Lay was charged with harassment under A.R.S. § 13- 2921(A)(1) (2019) and threatening or intimidating under A.R.S. § 13-1202(A)(1) (2019). The harassment charge was based on text messages Lay sent a woman with whom he had been in a relationship; the threatening or intimidating charge was based on evidence that Lay threatened to kill the woman's current significant other.

         ¶3 At the close of the State's case, Lay moved for judgment of acquittal under Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 20, arguing the State had failed to offer evidence that he committed the crimes within the precinct as required by A.R.S. § 22-301. The justice court denied the motion. It then convicted Lay and sentenced him to 60 days in jail.

         ¶4 Lay appealed to the superior court, which affirmed his convictions. After the superior court denied Lay's motion to reconsider, he filed this petition for special action.

         JURISDICTION

         ¶5 We exercise our discretion to accept jurisdiction of this special action under Article 6, Section 9, of the Arizona Constitution, A.R.S. § 12-120.21(A)(4) (2019) and Arizona Rule of Procedure for Special Actions 1(a). Lay has no remedy by appeal, see A.R.S. § 22-375 (2019), and this case presents a question of statutory interpretation, a question of law, which is of statewide importance, see Ariz. R.P. Spec. Act. 1(a); State ex rel. Montgomery v. Brain, 244 Ariz. 525, 527, ¶¶ 6-7 (App. 2018).

         DISCUSSION

         A. A.R.S. § 22-301 Establishes the Subject-Matter Jurisdiction of a Justice Court.

         ¶6 Section 22-301, titled "Jurisdiction of criminal actions," states in relevant part:

A. The justice courts shall have jurisdiction of the following offenses committed within their respective precincts:
1. Misdemeanors and . . . .
2. Felonies, but only for the purpose of commencing action and conducting proceedings through preliminary ...

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