Selected Accomplishments

The following is a list of the Center's most important cases since the Center's creation in 1974. This list reveals the sheer breadth of issues the Center has taken on in the past thirty years as well as a glimpse at the depth of its core work. This collection naturally leads one to wonder how different and more challenging life would have been in Arizona during the last three decades if there had been no Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.

Consumer Rights

  • ´╗┐Established that consumers can sue under Arizona law to challenge statutes adversely affecting their interests.  Pena v. Fullinwinder, 601 P.2d 1325 (Ariz. 1979)
  •  Sustained the authority of the state to create and enforce funeral industry regulations (which the Center staff was instrumental in drafting) that define and proscribe deceptive practices and require funeral homes to provide itemized price lists to customers.  Arizona Funeral Directors' Association v. Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Senior Citizens of Maricopa County (Maricopa Co. Sup. Ct. 1984)

Consumer Rights: Energy

  • Succeeded in requiring APS to refund $16 million in unlawful rate changes after sustaining the Commission's authority to utilize historic data rather than speculative future estimates in setting reasonable rates.  Arizona Corporation Commission and People Oppressed with Electric Rates v. Arizona Public Services Co., 555 P.2d 326 (Ariz. 1976).
  • Improved the utility termination policies of the Salt River Project by providing for due process before utility service can be disconnected.  Harle v. Salt River Project (Maricopa Co. Sup. Ct. settled 1977).
  • Established that the Arizona Corporation Commission must consider the overall financial condition of a utility before approving a rate increase.  Scates v. Arizona Corporation Commission, 578 P.2d 612 (Ariz. 1979), and subsequently secured a $12 million refund to Mountain Bell telephone customers (Ariz. Corp. Comm. 1980).
  • Established that the Arizona Corporation Commission must consider consumer interests in setting utility rates and may not approve rate increases based solely upon the financial interests of the utility company stockholders. Arizona Community Action Association v. Arizona Corporation Commission, 599 P.2d 184 (Ariz. 1979).
  • Established the Arizona Corporation Commission's authority to order a utility company to refund overcharges. Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Arizona Corporation Commission, 604 P.2d 1144 (Ariz. App. 1979).
  • Established that fees charged by the Arizona Corporation Commission can be directed to the state's general fund. Morris v. Fleming, 128 Ariz. 271 (Ariz. App. 1980).
  • Obtained a 35% discount for hearing impaired persons and their families who use telecommunications devices for the deaf for intra-state long distance telephone calls. Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Rate Proceeding (Ariz. Corp. Comm. 1981).
  • Established that the cost of a utility plant that sits idle cannot be passed on to the rate payers but is a cost that must be borne by stockholders, and resulted in an order to refund customers $200,000. Sun City West Utilities Co. Rate Proceeding (Ariz. Corp. Comm. 1982).
  • Successfully advocated that the Arizona Corporation Commission's rate-making proceedings are quasi-judicial in nature and thus subject to court review.  State ex rel. Corbin and Southern Arizonans for Fair Energy Rates v. Arizona Corporation Commission, 693 P.2d 362 (Ariz. App. 1984).
  • In SRP's first rate proceeding under the Electric Power Competition Act, successfully challenged the rate levels determined by SRP's Board, by settling for higher rate reductions for residential customers. Arizona Consumer Council v. Salt River Project (Ariz. App.).
  • Successfully challenged the Arizona Corporation Commission's rules that deemed market rates just and reasonable, by convincing the Arizona Supreme Court that the rules were unconstitutional.  Electric Competition Rules (Ariz. Sup. Ct.).
  • Challenged (but did not prevail) a rate settlement on the grounds that it bound future Arizona Corporation Commissions to rate levels prescribed in the rate settlement agreement.  APS Settlement (Ariz. App.).


  • Obtained an extended year program for a severely multiply-handicapped child. Chapman v. School District No. 10 of Pima County (D. Ariz. 1980).
  • Secured residential educational placement for a child with severe mental and physical disabilities. School District No. 4 of Maricopa County v. Frazer (D. Ariz. 1981).
  • Negotiated repeal of a statute that mandated the lease of school tirst grazing lands at far below market value. Sayler v. Arizona State Land Dept. (Maricopa Co. Sup. Ct.; settled 1982).
  • Established that mining companies must pay fair market value for minerals extracted from lands held in trust for Arizona's public schools. Kadish v. Arizona State Land Dept., 747 P.2d 1183 (1987), aff'd sub nom, ASARCO, Inc. v. Kadish, 490 U.S. 605 (1989).
  • Ensured the right of disabled students who require residential placements in order to benefit from their special education programs to receive those placements in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. Hodges v. Bishop (D. Ariz. 1991; judgment incorporated parties' stipulation).
  • Secured a ruling that the establishment clause of the First Amendment does not bar a public school district from providing a sign language interpreter at a parochial school. Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School Dist., 61 U.S.L.W. (1993).
  • Successfully proved that Arizona's school finance system violated Arizona's Constitution by discriminating against children in property-poor school districts. Roosevelt Elem. Sch. Dist. No. 66 v. Bishop, 179 Ariz. 233 (1994).
  • District Court had jurisdiction to hear appeal from denial of due process hearing to handicapped student, and statute of limitations is one year, but student is not entitled to educational program different from one provided by the school district. Dreher v. Amphitheater Unified School Dist. 22 F.3d 228 (9th Cir. 1994).
  • Successfully proved that legislation that allowed continued substantial disparities in schools violated the Arizona Constitution because it did not assure a general and uniform school system.  Hull v. Albrecht, 190 Ariz. 520 (1997).
  • Successfully proved that legislation that allowed wealthy school districts to opt out of statewide school finance scheme violated the Arizona Constitution because it did not assure a general and uniform school system.  Hull V. Albrecht, 960 P.2d 634 (Ariz. 1998).


  • Established the right of a blind civilian employee of the U.S. Air Force to promotion without discrimination, pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Knight v. U.S. Air Force (EEOC 1980).
  • Established the right of women throughout the country to receive equal pension benefits upon retirement. Arizona Governing Committee v. Norris, 463 U.S. 1073 (1983).
  • Established that under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 the U.S. Postal Service, as well as all other public employers, may not deny employment to a qualified handicapped person unless there is a "reasonable probability of substantial harm." Mantolete v. Bolger, 767 F.2d 1416 (9th Cir. 1985).
  • Forced Pima County to hire an individual with a disability whom the County had denied a job in violation of the Arizona Civil Rights Act. McClelland v. Pima County (Pima Co. Sup. Ct.; settled 1992).
  • Established that a union member's claim of employment discrimination on the basis of disability under the Arizona Civil Rights Act is not preempted by the federal Labor Management Relations Act. Francini v. Phoenix Newspapers, Inc. (D. Ariz. 1993).
  • Won a favorable ruling from the U.S. Dept. of Labor that three title and escrow companies in Maricopa County engaged in discriminatory employment practices by failing to recruit, retain and promote minority employees. MEChA v. Title Companies (1994).


  • Negotiated an end to the pollution of Sabino Creek near Tucson. United States v. Pima County (D. Ariz.; settled 1982).
  • Persuaded state and federal officials to add 16 toxic substances to the list of chemicals limited in discharges into the Santa Cruz River (EPA 1982).
  • Negotiated implementation of a stringent control program on toxic waste dumping by local industries in the Tucson area. Dely v. Pima County (D. Ariz.; settled 1983).
  • Blocked efforts to relax standards to toxic substances in the Salt, Gila, and Santa Cruz Rivers. (Ariz. Dept. Health Services, 1983).
  • Filed litigation resulting in a ban on construction of new major air pollution sources in metropolitan Phoenix, and disapproval of an inadequate particulates control plan. Cochran v. Gorsuch (9th Cir. 1983).
  • Prodded the Ariz. Dept. of Health Services to adopt the state's first groundwater quality protection program (1984).
  • Persuaded the Attorney General to rule that the state can adopt hazardous water controls more stringent than those adopted by the federal government. Ariz. Att'y Gen. Op. No. I84-044 (1984).
  • Forced the City of Phoenix to crack down on illegal dumping of industrial waste and end illegal toxic discharges into the Salt River. Catterfiled v. City of Phoenix (D. Ariz.; settled 1985).
  • Negotiated on behalf of environmental interests the adoption by the legislature in 1986 of stringent groundwater protection standards and the creation of the Dept. of Environmental Quality.
  • Through litigation, forced state adoption of clean air plans for Phoenix and Tucson, including the tougher auto emissions testing program in the nation, an innovative clean burning fuels program, and a mandatory trip reduction program. McCarthy v. Thomas (D. Ariz. 1988).
  • Obtained a precedent-setting federal court decision that bars relaxation of clean air deadlines and requires polluted cities to adopt wide-ranging measures to reduce vehicle exhaust. Delaney v. EPA, 898 F.2d 687 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 111 S.Ct. 556 (1990).
  • Won a landmark court ruling establishing the public trust doctrine in Arizona, requiring the state to protect rivers and lakes for future generations. Arizona Center for Law v. Hassell, 837 P.2d 138 (Ariz. App. 1991).
  • Led a multi-year advocacy project that led to clean up of pollution discharges along Oak Creek.
  • Negotiated a consent decree requiring the state to take prompt and effective enforcement action against water pollution violations throughout Arizona. Gregory v. Fox (Maricopa Co. Sup. Ct.; settled 1993).
  • Successfully advocated for tougher water quality standards statewide to protect the bald eagle and other endangered species, and for rejection of weak standards for protecting human health. Defenders of Wildlife v. Browner (D. Ariz. 1993). 
  • Negotiated federal court consent decree requiring clean up of toxic waste discharges from Luke Air Force Base. Todd v. Aspin (D. Ariz. ; settled 1994).
  • Involved in case holding that EPA must review and revise as appropriate the national clean air standard for airborne particulates on a court-ordered schedule. American Lung Ass'n v. Browner, 884 F.Supp. 345 (D. Ariz. 1994).
  • Involved in case holding that state plans to address airborne particulate pollution in Phoenix are inadequate to comply with the federal Clean Air Act. Ober v. EPA, 84 F.3d 304 (9th Cir. 1996).
  • Enforced law providing that the EPA cannot relax regulations adopted under the Clean Air Act to remedy carbon monoxide violations in Phoenix. DiSimone v. Browner, 121 F.3d 1262 (9th Cir. 1997).
  • Challenged the EPA's determination that the Phoenix area had enough measures in place to cut ozone-forming emissions by 15% by April 1, 1999. In approving the plan, the EPA relied up;on proposed national rules that were later weakened. AFter the Center filed its opening brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the EPA conceded that it needed to revisit the 15% rate of progress analysis in light of the weakened national rules. The EPA sought a voluntary remand, which was granted. The case ultimately settled. Aspegren v. Browner.
  • Challenged the EPA's moderate area federal implementation plan for PM-10 for the Phoenix area on the grounds that it illegally exempted so called 'de minimis' sources from controls and improperly failed to adopt enforceable controls for agricultural sources of PM-10. The case ultimately was dismissed as moot when the state submitted it own moderate plan and adopted agricultural control measures. Ober v. Browner II
  • Challenged the state's moderate area plan that included only a commitment to adopt agricultural controls in the future. The case was fully briefed and argued, but dismissed as moot when the state ultimately adopted specific agricultural control measures. Ober v. Browner III.
  • Challenged the EPA's 1997 revision of the national clean air standards for particulates. The Center argued that the standards do not adequately protect public health or visibility (especially in the West) as required by the Clean Air Act. The case was consolidated with challenges by about 40 industry petitioners who claimed that the new standards were too tough. The Supreme Court rejected the industry claims, and the D.C. Circuit Court rejected the Center's claim that the standards were too weak. The Supreme Court declined to review the Center's issue. Matusow (American Trucking Ass'n v. Browner).
  • Challenged legislation implementing previous decision on application of public trust to river and streambeds. Court ruled the legislation violated federal law by establishing navigability standards inconsistent with, and more rigorous than, federal law. Defenders of Wildlife v. Hull.
  • Established the right of environmental groups to apply for grazing leases on state trust lands and the obligation of the state land department to consider such applications as part of their fiduciary responsibilities. Forest Guardians v. Anable.
  • Sued the EPA for failure to timely approve or disapprove the Serious Area Plan. Resolved matter through a consent decree. Bahr v. Whitman.
  • Challenged state statutory scheme for grazing leases as anti-competitive and in violation of the state duty as trustee. State appealed from grant of summary judgment, and Court of Appeals reversed holding that issues of fact precluded summary judgment. Jeffries v. Hassel.
  • Challenged EPA's approval of the Phoenix serious area particulate plan because it failed to include clean burning diesel as either a "best available control measure" or "most stringent measure." The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held the EPA's approval was arbitrary and capricious because it failed to adequately explain why the CARB fuel was not required. Vigil v. Whitman.
  • Challenged EPA's approval of national pollutant discharge elimination system permits for municipal separate storm sewer systems that failed to ensure compliance with water quality standards through numeric effluent limits, but lost in the Ninth Circuit. Defenders v. Browner.
  • Brought a citizen suit under the Clean Air Act when the Arizona Legislature repealed the "smog dog" program without first obtaining a SIP revision. The federal district court agreed that the state could not simply repeal programs that were included in the SIP and granted our summary judgment motion. Sweat v. Hull.
  • Challenged the state's failure to protect surface water from the adverse affects of groundwater pumping as a violation of the public trust doctrine, but on special action the Court of Appeals held the case was premature because ANSAC had not yet found any watercourse navigable. Center for Biological Diversity v. Smith.
  • Challenged the state's failure to take interim measures to protect the riverbeds from further degradation pending the ANSAC determinations, but on special action the Court of Appeals dismissed as premature to seek interim relief. Petition for review is pending in the Arizona Supreme Court. Defenders v. Anable.
  • Sued the EPA for failure to enforce NPDES permit for Nogales International Wastewater TReatment Plan and sued plant operators for permit violations. Negotiated a consent decree with a timeline for construction of a new plant. Sierra Club v. Ramirez.

Financial Disclosures

  • Established that city council members must filed financial disclosure statements as required by state law. Wennerstrom v. City of Mesa and Fenzl v. Town of Wickenburg (1975).

Health Care

  • Required Maricopa County to open a $5 million mental health annex authorized by voters in a bond election. Love v. Campbell (Maricopa Co. Sup. Ct. 1977).
  • Secured modification of Dept. of Health Services regulation of skilled nursing facilities, providing for unannounced licensing inspections, revocations of licenses of facilities in which there were immediate hazards to patient health and safety, and speedier investigation of complaints. (1976).
  • Established that a privately owned nursing home cannot interfere with communications between patients and visitors. Teitelbaum v. Sorenson (D. Ariz. 1982).
  • Established the parental rights of disabled parents. (Maricopa Co. Sup. Ct. 1982).
  • Obtained a ruling representing the Coalition for Improved Long-Term Care as intervenor that upheld the constitutionality of a statute that limits the circumstances under which nursing home patients can be transferred. Schebel v. Little Sisters of the Poor (Maricopa Co. Sup. Ct. 1983).
  • Required Maricopa County to include developmentally disabled and seriously mentally ill applicants in its long-term health care program. Cappelucci v. Maricopa County (Maricopa Co. Sup. Ct. 1988).
  • Established the legal responsibility of the state and county to provide a continuum of community-based services for the seriously mentally ill. Arnold v. Arizona Dept. of Health Services, 775 P.2d 521 (Ariz. 1989).
  • Obtained treatment for a mentally ill inmate, and ruling that keeping a mentally ill inmate in isolation lock-down status violated Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. H.B. by Arnold v. Lewis (D. Ariz. 1993).
  • Established that when the state delegates its federal Medicaid children's mental health programs to private regional corporations, those private corporations are state actors and must follow all federal regulations. J.K. v. Dillenberg (D. Ariz. 1993).
  • Secured the discharge of more than 20 patients who had been hospitalized for years at the Arizona State Hospital into small community residential settings (1992-94).

Open Meetings

  • Obtained agreement that the Arizona Board of Regents would no longer take secret votes during open meetings, Arizona Press Club v. Arizona Board of Regents (Maricopa Co. Sup. Ct.; settled 1975), and helped secure passage of legislation empowering the press to take cameras and tape recorders into public meetings.
  • Established that administrative agencies must conduct their decision-making deliberations in open meetings, by convincing the legislature to clarify the open meeting law (1976).
  • Enforced Open Meeting Law against Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and secured ruling that the legal advice exception does not allow public bodies to discuss underlying facts or the merits of possible action behind closed doors. Fisher v. Maricopa County Standium Dist., 185 Ariz. 116 (App. 1995).

Voting Rights

  • Required Phoenix Union High School District to stop using an at-large voting scheme which had the effect of discriminating against African-American and Hispanic voters in the District. Bencomo v. Phoenix Union High School Dist. (D. Ariz. 1990; consent decree).
  • Salt River Project is subject to the federal Voting Rights Act (but its method of electing Board does not violate the Act). Smith v. Salt River Project Agric. Improvement & Power Dist. 109 F.3d 586 (9th Cir. 1997).
  • Successfully represented the Arizona Clean Elections Commission in defending challenges of the citizen-approved Clean Elections Act that were filed in federal and state courts. Lavis v. Bayless (federal action) and VOTEPAC et al. v. Bayless (state action).
  • Successfully challenged the Legislative Council's failure to write an impartial description of the Citizens Growth Management Institute for use in the ballot guide for citizens, because the Arizona Supreme Court found the description adopted by the Council was biased and improper. CGMI v. Groscost.
  • Sued the City of Tucson for its failure to comply with the City Charter in preparing the ballot for a transportation plan that was to be submitted to the voters. Tucson citizens had, through initiative, amended the Charter to require specific disclosures on the ballot when voters were asked to approve transportation measures. The court dismissed the action as unripe, but left unresolved the question of whether the City's ballot complied with the Charter. The voters rejected the transportation plan. Moshier v. City of Tucson.