Engineering a Free Speech Victory in the Grand Canyon State
The first step to getting a court to protect your rights is getting a court to hear your case. A recent decision from the Arizona Supreme Court in our engineering case there makes it easier for people to get into court and frees us to continue our challenge.
Almost three years ago, IJ sued the Arizona Board of Technical Registration, the administrative agency that regulates “engineering,” because it was threatening Greg Mills’ constitutional rights to truthfully call himself an engineer and continue his engineering work at his own company.
But the Board said Greg wasn’t allowed to sue it, not now and maybe not ever. Instead, invoking “administrative exhaustion,” the Board argued Greg had to wait until the Board followed through on its threats. Only if the Board, which acts as both prosecutor and judge, chose to find Greg guilty might he then be allowed “to appeal” the decision to the courts. The lower courts went along, meaning Greg had no guarantee that a court would ever hear his constitutional challenge.
But the Arizona Supreme Court reversed, holding that forcing Greg to wait for the Board to finish prosecuting him “would be pointless because the Board is powerless” to determine Greg’s constitutional rights—that is what real courts are for. Moreover, because the Board’s threats gave Greg a “real and present need to know whether” the laws he challenged were unconstitutional, most of Greg’s claims were also “ripe” for judicial review.
The ruling makes it harder for agencies to prevent people from going to court when their rights are threatened. And we will shortly return to the trial court to defend Greg’s constitutional rights from the Board’s threats.
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