ASU law professor and dean emeritus names top Arizona legal cases

Arizona has grown in the past 100 years from a territory formerly part of the wild, wild West to a state with a rich history of legal cases affecting either local residents or residents along with the rest of the nation. Based on my own views as an attorney, educator and author, as well as consultation with a few people who know the legal history of the state a lot better than I do, I’ve compiled two such lists. Each is in chronological order and each case name is followed by the court that decided it, the date of the decision, and a sentence explaining the importance of the case.

The first contains three Arizona legal cases of national importance that arose in Arizona and that had a national impact, but that had no special impact on Arizona different from the impact on the rest of the country.

A. Cases of National Importance:

Top Arizona Legal Cases, Miranda v. Arizona, U.S. Supreme Court1. Miranda v. Arizona. U.S. Supreme Court (1966).

Requires police to give “Miranda warnings” prior to questioning a suspect in custody, in order to be able to use a confession obtained through the interrogation at trial.

2. In re Gault. U.S. Sup. Ct. (1967).

Requires that juveniles be given due process protections in juvenile delinquency proceedings.

3. Bates v. State Bar of Arizona. U.S. Sup. Ct. (1977).

Holds that lawyer advertising is protected by the First Amendment.

B. Cases of Arizona Importance:

1. State v. Tucson Gas, Elec. Light & Power Co. Az Sup Ct. (1914).

Holds that the Arizona Corporation Commission, rather than the state Legislature, has the exclusive power to regulate utility rates.

2. Orme v. Salt River Valley Water Users’ Ass’n.  Az Sup. Ct. (1923).

Holds that the Legislature, if it can get a two-thirds vote in each House, can prevent voters from subjecting new legislation to a voter referendum by declaring an emergency, whether an emergency actually exists.

3. Williams v. Lee.  U.S. Sup. Ct. (1959).

Holds that state courts have no jurisdiction over civil cases that arise on Indian Reservations, even if the dispute is between an Indian and a non-Indian.

4. Arizona v. California. U.S. Sup. Ct. (1963).

Establishes the extent of Arizona’s right to water from the Colorado River.

5. Kenyon v. Hammer. Az Sup. Ct. (1984).

Holds that the right to recover damages for personal injury is a fundamental right in Arizona that cannot be abrogated by the Legislature.

Arizona Legal Cases, Mecham v. Gordon6. Mecham v. Gordon. Az Sup Ct. (1988).

Because of Gov. Evan Mecham’s impeachment conviction, cancelled a recall election that had been scheduled on the basis of voter recall petitions, thus permitting Secretary of State Rose Mofford to serve out the remainder of Mecham’s term.

7. Roosevelt Elementary School District v. Bishop. Az Sup. Ct. (1994).

Requires substantial equalization of state funding for public school districts in Arizona.

[stextbox id=”grey”]Paul Bender teaches courses on U.S. and Arizona constitutional law. He has written extensively about constitutional law, intellectual property and Indian law, and is coauthor of the two-volume casebook/treatise, Political and Civil Rights in the United States. Professor Bender has argued more than 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and actively participates in constitutional litigation in federal and state courts.[/stextbox]