The Arizona independent tribunal, Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), must really be hurting not only the CAI lawyers, but all lawyers, too. OAH does not pay attorney fees and HOAs cannot expect to get fees from the homeowner. They have to pay from the total of assessments collected. And with a national law firm at its side, it will be paying big, very big.
In the opening rounds of this second period of adjudication, the first ending with 42% of the cases won by the homeowner, a national law firm undertook the defense of an HOA on the issue of an amendment to the CC&Rs. The amendment forced a homeowner to stop building her home, which she was legally entitled to under under her existing CC&Rs. In Wozniak v. North Slopes POA, OAH No. 11F-H1112001-BFS, filed July 22nd, the attorney seeks dismissal of the case based on 2 black and white claims: the homeowner failed to indicate what law or governing document provision was violated, and that North Slopes was, by definition, not a planned community and, therefore, not subject to OAH adjudication – the HOA does not own any property in the subdivision.
BUT, this did not stop Karen Karr of the national firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith from an opening barrage against the constitutionality of the old statute — old news and moot – and the claims that the new statute is also unconstitutional. She is a labor management attorney. Obviously, the ALJ would dismiss the Petition based on the “black and white” laws and need not entertain the constitutionality question (as an earlier OAH case appealed to the superior court bypassed the constitutionality question). So why the fuss? Headlines? Coaching from you know who lobbyist firm who got scathed by its initial foray into the constitutionality issue, and seeks others to do its work? The one who promised to attack the new statutes? Could that be Carpenter Hazlewood?
The attorney spends 1 1/2 pages (of 7) on reciting history, not applicable to the new statute, and fails to state the fact that the AZ Supreme Court did not allow the appellate case of Gelb to serve as precedent when it declined to hear an appeal. In another 1/2 page, unsupported allegations are made as to the constitutionality of the new statute – no case law, no constitutional law, no administrative agency law. Why on earth bring constitutionality up in such a feeble manner?
My guess is that we will see another attempt, maybe more, to unseat justice for homeowners in HOAs. I mean, it took Carpenter Hazlewood 4 tries before it won the appellate court, but not precedent, decision in Gelb.
BTW, why DFBLS did not outright reject this Petition is a mystery. Clearly it did not meet the requirements of proper adjudication. (While the new DFBLS Petition form asks for specific statutes alleged to have been violated, it does not ask about specific provisions of the governing documents that are alleged to have been violated). If DFBLS had properly rejected the Petition, it would have had to return the $550 fee.
Furthermore, I can understand the ALJ giving the Petitioner a chance to answer, but this ALJ, who is experienced in HOA matters, does not ask the homeowner to address these jurisdictional issues right-out, but seeks a pre-trial conference and entertains a motion for continuance.
Is there a “plot” to raise OAH expenses on frivolous matters in order to obtain evidence for a fee increase? An increase that was already on the drawing board even before the law became effective in July.