Cases August 31, 2022

Brnovich v. Hobbs – Elections Procedures Manual (AZ)

YAVAPAI COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT; ARIZONA COURT OF APPEALS, DIV. ONE; ARIZONA SUPREME COURT
Issue Areas
Summary

On April 21, 2022, Arizona Attorney General (AG) Mark Brnovich and the Yavapai County Republican Committee and its Vice Chair Demitra Manjoros filed a complaint against Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in the Yavapai County Superior Court to force Secretary Hobbs to issue an updated Elections Procedures Manual (EPM) with the AG’s preferred policy preferences. 

The EPM provides detailed procedures and critical guidance to county election officials to ensure secure, consistent, and efficient election administration across the state. After AG Brnovich refused to collaborate with Secretary Hobbs or approve an updated EPM in 2021, state and county officials prepared to administer 2022 elections in compliance with the 2019 EPM (the last-approved EPM).  

States United served as pro-bono co-counsel for Secretary Hobbs alongside Coppersmith Brockelman PLC. In response to the AG’s request for special action relief, Secretary Hobbs made the case that the 2019 EPM complies with Arizona law and: 

  • AG Brnovich’s demand for a new EPM after the statutory deadline to approve a new EPM violates Arizona law; 
  • It is too late in the election year to issue a new EPM with significant changes; granting the AG’s request would upend election administration across the state and burden both election officials and voters; 
  • The AG’s demanded changes to the EPM are not legal requirements but simply his policy preferences, which the Secretary has no legal duty to adopt; and 
  • The AG’s request to include his preferred policies in the EPM is a political question, not one for the court to decide. 

Following an initial hearing, Judge John Napper ordered AG Brnovich to provide specific reasons for his demanded changes to the EPM, including his objections to provisions that were in the 2019 EPM he previously approved. The Judge also added Governor Ducey as a necessary party to the case, based on the statutory requirement that the governor also approve any updated EPM. Gov. Ducey filed a brief on June 3, siding with Secretary Hobbs and arguing that it’s too late to issue a new EPM for the 2022 elections and that the 2019 EPM should remain in effect. 

On June 17, Judge Napper denied AG Brnovich’s requested relief, and on June 22, the court entered final judgment against the AG. Counties will continue to administer elections under the existing manual, which Judge Napper found that Secretary Hobbs “properly exercised her discretion” in writing. 

Latest Update

AG Brnovich appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals and immediately sought to transfer the appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. After that request was denied on July 6, the AG sought expedited special action review in the Court of Appeals, which declined jurisdiction on July 19.  

On August 12, Secretary Hobbs moved to dismiss the AG’s appeal as moot given that the Court of Appeals would not be able to rule until after the general election. On August 26, the AG filed a stipulation to dismiss the appeal.  

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