What happened to bring about this challenge?
In September, Goldwater Institute investigative reporter Mark Flatten released an investigative report showing that Phoenix and other Arizona cities spend millions of dollars every year to pay employees to perform union work on city time. It's called "release time." The Goldwater Institute is taking on the city's contract with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA). By executing this deal with PLEA, the members of the Phoenix City Council have violated the Arizona Constitution and their duty of loyalty to the taxpayers.
The contract provides an estimated $900,000 in annual release time for police union work, including lobbying. Six officers are released from city work on a full-time basis (each receiving 160 hours of overtime at 1.5x their regular salary). PLEA also uses 35 representatives. These representatives are not given a set amount of release time. Instead, they are authorized to use an unspecified amount of release time to accompany fellow officers to grievance meetings, use of force hearings, etc. For example, two representatives (or three if one is in training) are authorized to leave their post and accompany officers to grievance meetings (which is an alleged violation of the city’s agreement with PLEA). PLEA receives 500 release time hours annually for a lobbyist.
Release time harms police officers. PLEA’s past president confirmed that if the city did not give paid release time to union leaders, more money could go to police officer wages and benefits.
Quick Status >>
Last step: Trial court declares release time unconstitutional and enjoins practice
Who is the client?
Phoenix taxpayers William R. Cheatham and Marcus Huey.
Who is the judge?
The Honorable Katherine Cooper
What are the key issues?
When the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association negotiated their memorandum of understanding, PLEA was given a generous release time package with nothing in return for the city/taxpayers. Under the Gift Clause of the Arizona Constitution, subsidies cannot be given to private associations without proportionate, tangible benefits in return, making this agreement illegal.
December 7, 2011: Goldwater Institute files complaint.
May 25, 2012: Evidentiary Hearing at Maricopa County Superior Court (details)
May 5, 2012: Court grants preliminary injunction
July 2, 2012: Goldwater Institute applies for second preliminary injunction
March 22, 2013: Goldwater Institute files motion for summary judgment
April 23, 2013: Judge grants second injunction against release time in new contract
November 25-26, 2013: Trial held before Judge Cooper
January 24, 2014: Trial court declares release time provisions unconstitutional and permanently enjoins them
March 7, 2014: Oral argument before Judge Cooper at Maricopa County Superior Court CR 514, 3pm
Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' Application for Preliminary Injunction (4/20/2012)
Evidentiary Hearing Set (5/15/2012)
Court Grants Preliminary Injunction (6/5/2012)
Application for Second Preliminary Injunction (7/2/2012)
Amended Complaint (7/23/2012)
Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (3/22/13)
Court Grants Second Injunction (4/23/2013)
Release Time Ruling (1/24/2014)
Plaintiffs' Answering Brief (preliminary injunction appeal) (12/5/13)
Plaintiffs' Supplemental Answering Brief
City, Police Union Sued by Taxpayers (12/8/2011)
Goldwater Institute Seeks Injunction Against Police Union Release Time (4/5/2012)
Judge Halts Union Release Time (6/6/2012)
Goldwater Institute Seeks Second Preliminary Injunction in Release Time Case (7/2/2012)
Goldwater Institute: Money for Nothing: Phoenix Taxpayers Foot the Bill for Union Work (9/21/2011)
Breitbart.com: Taxpayers Pay Teacher to Do Union Work During School Hours (1/25/2012)
George Will: Union Business, on the Taxpayers' Dime (3/15/2012)
Arizona Republic: Phoenix area police off-duty work gets little agency oversight (3/20/2012)
Arizona Republic: Phoenix OKs contract to restore police pay (5/4/2012)
Op-ed: New contracts effective July 1 eliminate two egregious abuses to taxpayer dollars
The Legal Team
Clint Bolick is the Goldwater Institute’s litigation director. He has extensive success before trial judges and appellate courts. He has won two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was named as a Lawyer of the Year in 2003 by American Lawyer magazine.
Jon Riches is an attorney at the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. He litigates in areas of taxpayer rights, public union and pension reform, government transparency, and school choice, among others. Prior to joining the Goldwater Institute, Jon served on active duty in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. While on active duty, Jon represented hundreds of clients, litigated dozens of Court-Martial cases, and advised commanders on a vast array of legal issues.