City of Chandler v. ADOT (CA1 5/20/10)

The question here is whether Chandler or the State has to pay to relocate utility lines for a new Loop 202 interchange. Municipal and utilities lawyers might find it substantively interesting. They might also know why it was brought; the court, at least, clearly thinks the City’s arguments inconsequential.

Our concerns are stylistic. Though neither is well-written, since we just finished praising Young v. Beck for having a good front end its hard not to notice that this one doesn’t.

Both parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The ADOT won. Chandler appealed. What did it argue? “The City argues that the trial court erred because it, not ADOT, was entitled to summary judgment.” Well, yes. That’s true. Can’t deny it. Thanks for telling us.

Why does that silly sentence even exist? As an introduction to the boilerplate standard-of-review paragraph. As if they weren’t bad enough to begin with, now those pointless paragraphs get their own lead-ins.

So what did the City really argue? To find that you read. And read. And read. And finally, on page 11 (of 19), the court tells you. The arguments wouldn’t make sense without the context of the court’s prior discussion, you say? On the contrary, its their connection with that discussion that isn’t entirely clear.

What have you been reading up to that point? Page after page of facts, for one thing. The size of the water line installed in 1975 and of the sewer line installed in 1992, the story of the Chandler Improvement Company (1904-1913) – if you want a history of the intersection of Willis and McQueen in Chandler, this is the place. Of course, 90% of this is irrelevant to the holding and none of it is contested. And then there’s the law, mostly a several-page mini-treatise on the law of dedication – law not at issue, since the parties agreed that the roadway was dedicated.

So what’s the holding? That when government reasonably decides to re-do a road, the owner of the utilities has to pay to relocate them. The opinion makes it sound as if this is what the law always was. Maybe so. Turns out, though, when you get to page 17 and look at the footnote, that the City had a case – but it was a California case, of which this court’s analysis is “we think it proper . . .  to follow existing Arizona law.”

Unless there’s more to this than the court lets meet the eye, it could have done that in a two-page memo.