PHOENIX — A Maricopa County Superior Court said he has the legal right to decide whether Bob Burns has the unilateral power to subpoena utility executives, even in the face of opposition of the other four members of the Arizona Corporation Commission.
In an extensive ruling Monday, Judge Daniel Kiley rejected arguments by Arizona Public Service that he is legally powerless to intercede in what the company contends is a dispute among commissioners. APS attorney Mary O’Grady said that, at the very least, Burns should have to wait until the commission rules on its pending rate increase request.
But Kiley said this isn’t a simple internal dispute among commissioners. Instead, he pointed out, Burns wants a clear ruling on the scope of his constitutional and statutory authority as an elected member of the panel to compel the production of evidence and examine witnesses.
“Resolving such disputes is clearly within the province of the judiciary,’’ the judge wrote. “Moreover, Arizona courts have long recognized that declaratory judgment relief is an appropriate vehicle for resolving controversies as to the legality of acts of public officials.’’
Kiley also rebuffed an argument by Chairman Tom Forese that the dispute between Burns and the other commissioners is “really a political question’’ beyond the scope of the judge to resolve.
“This case presents issue of constitutional interpretation and statutory construction that are squarely within the scope of judicial authority,’’ the judge said.
Kiley’s ruling came as the commission voted Monday to pay to hire separate attorneys for the other four commissioners to defend themselves in…
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