by
Defendant was entitled to withdraw his plea of guilty to rape because the district court abused its discretion by mechanically applying the factors set forth in State v. Shickles, 760 P.2d 291 (Utah 1988) to assess the probative value of the state’s Utah R. Evid. 404(b) evidence. In making this determination, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the district court was required to apply the doctrine of chances’ four foundational requirements, outlined in State v. Verde, 296 P.3d 673 (Utah 2012), to conclude that certain testimony was admissible under Utah R. Evid. 403. Thus the court affirmed the court of appeals’ ultimate conclusion that the district court’s evidentiary ruling was in error but under different reasoning. View "State v. Lowther" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision in Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment v. Executive Director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality, 391 P.3d 148 (Utah 2016) (Utah Physicians I) and dismissed the petition for review in this case for reasons set forth in the court’s decision in that case. In both cases the Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality approved a permit for a new project at an oil refinery, and the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality affirmed the issuance of the permit. In both cases, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and others (collectively, Petitioners) sought to challenge the Executive Director’s final action in a judicial proceeding. In Utah Physicians I, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition on procedural grounds because Petitioners failed to identify specific parts of the Executive Director’s final order they believed were incorrect. Because Petitioners made the same error in this case, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition for review. View "Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment v. Executive Director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated Petitioner’s conviction for dealing materials harmful to minors, holding that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to assert a free speech First Amendment defense and that such a defense would have succeeded if it had been raised. The conviction stemmed from the interception of drawings Petitioner had sent to his five-year-old daughter from jail depicting Petitioner as naked and holding his daughter in the air. The district court granted summary judgment to the State on Petitioner’s petition for post-conviction relief, concluding that Petitioner suffered no prejudice because his First Amendment defense lacked merit. The Supreme Court reversed and vacated Petitioner’s conviction, holding that Petitioner’s drawing was not overtly sexual or sexually suggestive, and therefore, Petitioner’s First Amendment defense was viable. View "Butt v. State" on Justia Law

by
The plain language of Utah Code 41-6a-517, does not require a showing of impairment, and the statute does not violate the federal or state constitutions. Defendant was charged under section 41-6a-517 with operating a motor vehicle with a metabolite of a controlled substance in his body. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss. Defendant entered a plea of no contest, reserving his right to appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an individual violates section 41-6a-517 when he or she operates or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with any measurable controlled substance or metabolite of a controlled substance in the person’s body; and (2) the statute does not violate the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution or the uniform operation of laws provision of the Utah Constitution. View "State v. Outzen" on Justia Law

by
Legal malpractice claims are presumed to be voluntarily assignable. Eagle Mountain City entered into a contractual arrangement with Cedar Valley Water Association to share in recovery from a legal malpractice action brought against Parsons Kinghorn & Harris, P.C. The City brought the legal malpractice action in its own name. At issue was whether the contractual arrangement transferred sufficient control over the malpractice claim from the City to Cedar Valley to constitute an assignment. The district court dismissed the case without prejudice on the ground that the assignment of legal malpractice claims violates public policy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, even assuming the City assigned its legal malpractice claim, this assignment does not violate public policy. View "Eagle Mountain City v. Parsons Kinghorn & Harris, P.C." on Justia Law

by
Dos Lagos, LLC and Mellon Valley, LLC defaulted on a loan in which Utah First Federal Credit Union owned a fifty-two percent interest and RADC/CADC Venture, LLC (RADC) owned a forty-eight percent interest. Utah First filed a deficiency action against Dog Lagos, Mellon Valley, and several guarantors (collectively, Dos Lagos). After the statute of limitations had expired, Utah First filed an emended complaint adding RADC as a party plaintiff. The district court awarded RADC the full amount of the loan, concluding that the amended complaint related back to the date of the original complaint under Utah R. Civ. P. 15(c). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err when it found that RADC’s claim was not time barred and awarded RADC the full deficiency amount. View "2010-1 RADC/CADC Venture, LLC v. Dos Lagos, LLC" on Justia Law

by
This case concerning a general contractor’s attempt to recover on a mechanic’s lien involved two phases. In the first phase, Jordan Construction, Inc. prevailed on its counterclaims against Scott Bell. In the second phase, Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) was brought into the action as a third-party defendant. FNMA subsequently succeeded in a series of motions before the district court. FNMA then stipulated to the payment of $126,956.92, the amount of the original mechanic’s lien. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that FNMA is not bound by the earlier judgment rendered against Bell under either the recording of the lis pendens or the doctrine of res judicata; (2) did not err in ruling that Jordan Construction’s amended notice of lien was untimely; (3) did not err in ruling that, under the 2008 Utah Code, Jordan Construction was not entitled to recover prejudgment interest on its mechanic’s lien claim; and (4) properly awarded FNMA attorney fees under the mechanic’s lien statute. View "Jordan Construction, Inc. v. Federal National Mortgage Ass’n" on Justia Law

Posted in: Construction Law

by
Utah Code prohibits subsequent state prosecution of the “same offense” for which defendant was convicted in federal court. Robertson was convicted by the federal government for possession of child pornography. The state subsequently charged him with 20 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor based on the same conduct. Robertson cited Utah Code section 76-1-404: [i]f a defendant‘s conduct establishes the commission of one or more offenses within the concurrent jurisdiction of this state and of another jurisdiction, federal or state, the prosecution in the other jurisdiction is a bar to a subsequent prosecution in this state if . . . the former prosecution resulted in an acquittal, conviction, or termination . . . and the subsequent prosecution is for the same offense. The Utah Supreme Court’s interpretation of section 404, in State v. Franklin, permitted subsequent prosecutions by different sovereigns, for the same offense. The court of appeals affirmed Robertson‘s convictions. The supreme court reversed, overruling Franklin and holding that the statute’s use of the phrase “same offense” is an express rejection of the dual sovereignty doctrine. Section 404 requires courts to employ only the Blockburger-Sosa test: two offenses are not the same if each requires proof of an element that the other does not. Section 404, properly interpreted, prohibits the state from prosecuting Robertson. View "State v. Robertson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order granting Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained after a law enforcement officer stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation and searched Defendant, a passenger, incident to his arrest on an outstanding arrest warrant. The district court had concluded that the trooper had violated Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights when he asked to see Defendant’s identification and ran a warrants check without reasonable suspicion that Defendant had committed or was about to commit a crime. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the officer’s seconds-long extension of the lawful traffic stop to request Defendant’s identification did not unreasonably prolong the detention and that officer safety concerns justified the “negligibly burdensome extension of the traffic stop[.]” View "State v. Martinez" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that, under Utah Code 31A-22-305.3, a underinsured motorist (UIM) insurer must fully compensate its insured within its policy limits but only for damages in excess of what was paid by workers’ compensation so as to avoid an inappropriate double recovery. Danny Rutherford, who was injured when the work van he was driving was hit by another vehicle, sought double recovery from his employer’s workers’ compensation insurer and Truck Insurance Exchange, which provided Rutherford’s employer with underinsured motorist coverage. The district court granted summary judgment for Rutherford. In light of its holding, the Supreme Court reversed. View "Truck Insurance Exchange v. Rutherford" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law