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AZ Supreme Court to hear attorney general's appeal over lawsuit against ABOR

The attorney general appealed the dismissal of his lawsuit over public university tuition

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Attorney General Mark Brnovich speaks at the 2019 inauguration of Gov. Doug Ducey (not pictured) and other statewide officials on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that it will hear Attorney General Mark Brnovich's appeal regarding the dismissal of his lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents over public university tuition rates. 

Brnovich claims that current tuition rates are in violation of Arizona's constitution, which states that tuition for public universities must be "as nearly free as possible."

The attorney general's office said that the lawsuit will hopefully explain why in-state tuition rates are "skyrocketing." 

ABOR Chair Larry Penley said in a statement that the board is committed to keeping education affordable for Arizona families, and the lawsuit takes away from helping students seek a higher education.  

"The board continues to feel strongly that the Attorney General’s ongoing pursuit of this unnecessary lawsuit and its false narrative have a negative impact on the people of Arizona," Penley said. "The lawsuit has been and continues to be a considerable waste of time and resources, both for the board and the state of Arizona."

Brnovich's office said in a statement that the people of Arizona should be given an explanation for why in-state tuition has increased "more than 300 percent since 2003."

"For the last 15 years, Arizona students and their families have struggled to afford a college education at our state universities with no possible relief in sight," Brnovich said in the statement. "The Supreme Court today offered a glimmer of hope — an open door for a necessary debate regarding the authority of the Attorney General to defend the state constitution and affordability of higher education at our public universities."

The case was dismissed August 2019 by the Arizona Court of Appeals, citing a previous case that the court interpreted to mean the attorney general does not have the power to file a lawsuit on his own.

READ MORE: Arizona AG appeals the dismissal of ABOR lawsuit to AZ Supreme Court

Penley said that the board agrees with the court's ruling that the attorney general is overstepping his role. 

"At issue is whether the Court should grant the Attorney General’s request for virtually unfettered authority to sue whomever and whenever he believes it is in the public interest," Penley said. "The Attorney General’s effort to so expand his power should be of concern to every citizen in this state."

Penley said that in regard to tuition policy, "Our system of government leaves it to the Legislature — our elected representatives — to resolve, not the courts."

Both Brnovich and ABOR have until March 2 to file any supplemental briefs, with the date for oral arguments to be determined.

"Mark Brnovich" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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