Case Details


Mandamus Action Is Not Appropriate To Compel Attorney General Opinion

Filing State



Arizona Court of Appeals




Yes on Prop. 200 v. Napolitano, 215 Ariz. 458, 160 P.3d 1216 (Ariz. Ct. App. Div. 1, 2007)


Attorney General opinion cannot be challenged by a mandamus action, which would be a violation of the separation of powers.

Case Description

Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, which was codified into law. Proposition 200, among other things, “require[d] agencies of the state and local governments that administer “state and local public benefits that are not federally mandated” to verify the immigration status of applicants for benefits and report any discovered violations to federal immigration authorities.” The Attorney General issued an opinion, at the request of a state agency head, that interpreted “state and local public benefits” to include only those that qualify as “state and local benefits programs” under federal law. Voters filed a mandamus action against the Attorney General, alleging that he had abused his discretion by issuing an erroneous legal opinion. The court of appeals rejected this argument, stating that permitting mandamus actions in this situation would “be an inappropriate usurpation by the courts of responsibility assigned to the Attorney General and, in our view, a violation of the separation of powers.“ The court also declined to order the Attorney General to withdraw his opinion or to direct state agencies to act in a certain way, because there is no such obligation under the state’s Constitution and statutes, and because the Arizona Attorney General’s powers come solely from Constitutional and statutory, not common, law.