The City of Mesa (“The City”) used the city-owned Emerald Park as a water retention basin for excess storm water. Emerald Park did not have an effective form of emergency overflow relief. After heavy rains on September 8, 2014, the City collected and pumped storm water into the Emerald Park area, which overflowed and flooded into the plaintiffs’ neighborhoods and homes, causing property damage. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief preventing the city from using their property as ad hoc water overflow relief without due process or just compensation.
The superior court granted the City’s motion to dismiss, citing A.R.S. § 12-1802(6), which states that injunctive relief cannot be granted “to prevent the exercise of a public or private office in a lawful manner by the person in possession.”. The plaintiffs appealed. Boruch et al. v. State et al., 242 Ariz. 611, 399 P.3d 686 (June 20, 2017).
The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the dismissal was inappropriate because §12-1802(6) does not prohibit injunctive relief against public officials exercising discretionary authority in an unreasonable and arbitrary manner or exceeding their authority. §12-1802(6) only prohibits an injunction when the public official is acting in a lawful manner.
Actions by a public official that exceed their authority or exercise discretionary authority in an unreasonable and arbitrary manner are not lawful, and may be grounds for injunctive relief. In this case, the plaintiffs alleged that the use of their property as ad hoc water overflow relief was an unreasonable and arbitrary use of the City’s authority.
§12-1802(4), which prohibits injunctive relief to prevent the enforcement of a public statute by officers of the law for the public benefit, also did not apply. This section only prohibits an injunction when a public officer is acting within their statutory authority. The plaintiffs did not seek to enjoin the City’s statutory authority to construct drainage channels or manage water retention, but only to enjoin the use of their properties as ad hoc water overflow relief, which exceeded the City’s statutory authority.
If the government is exceeding its statutory authority or exercising discretionary authority in an unreasonable or arbitrary manner, §12-1802 will not apply and injunctive relief may be granted.
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