Supreme Court To Hear ABOR Tuition Case

PHOENIX – The Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Arizona Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents for the more than 300 percent increase in tuition at Arizona’s sate universities since 2003.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich thanked the Justices for agreeing to hear the case.

Both parties will have to file supplemental briefs by March 2, 2020. Oral arguments will be set by the Court at a future date.

Related article: Former AZ AG’s File Amicus Brief, Ask Supreme Court to Overturn McFate For ABOR Lawsuit

In September, Brnovich petitioned the Supreme Court to review the dismissal of the AG’s lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) for the allegedly unconstitutionally high tuition at the state’s three universities. The dismissal was based on what is known as the McFate decision. In the McFate case, the court’s ruling limits  the power of the attorney general to act independently.

In November 2019, former Arizona Attorneys General Jack LaSota, Bob Corbin, Terry Goddard, and Tom Horne filed an amicus brief in support of Brnovich’s petition to the court seeking the overturning of the McFate decision.

The Attorney General’s Office challenged the Regents for the “skyrocketing tuition and fees” at the universities.

As the ADI previously reported:

Since 2017, the Attorney General’s Office has sought court review of Arizona Board Of Regents (ABOR) policies and practices for unlawful tuition and fee-setting actions, as well as public money subsidies paid to ineligible students under state law.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, Arizona’s Constitution requires instruction at the state’s public colleges to be provided “as nearly free as possible.” Despite this, the Arizona Board of Regents has increased tuition and mandatory fees at state universities by over 300% since 2003.

The petition also seeks clarity on a 1960’s case ruling Arizona State Land Department v. McFate. The Arizona Court of Appeals unanimously concluded McFate’s limitation on the Attorney General’s authority to initiate lawsuits “appears to be flawed.”

According to Brnovich’s office, the four former attorneys general provide information and “a unique perspective” to the issue the McFate case presents. Their combined twenty-six years of experience, “informs their views upon the issues presented in this matter and places them in a uniquely situated position to assist this Court by offering their perspective on the issues.”

In their brief, the attorneys general request that the Arizona Supreme Court grant the Petition for Review and reverse the Court of Appeals’ decision upholding the trial court’s dismissal for lack of standing. In doing so, the Court should overrule McFate and hold that A.R.S. § 41-193(A)(2) grants the Attorney General, as Arizona’s chief legal officer, the authority to initiate lawsuits when deemed necessary to address matters of State concern and to protect the public interest.

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