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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the complaint filed by Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy (Metro) seeking injunctive relief and other claims regarding Defendant's improvements to his property, in violation to Metro's regulations, on the grounds that Metro's claims were not yet ripe, holding that the parties' claims were ripe. Metro was a quasi-governmental entity known as a limited purpose local district, created for the purpose of operating the Salt Lake Aqueduct (SLA). Metro owned land in fee and had various easements along the SLA corridor, and one of those easements crossed Defendant's backyard. When Defendant made improvements to his property in violation of Metro's regulations over non-Metro district use of SLA corridor lands such as Defendant's, Defendant brought this lawsuit. The district court dismissed Metro's claims as not ripe, finding that determining whether Defendant had unreasonably interfered with the easement was speculative. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the parties had present and competing interests in the land at issue and because Metro claimed Defendant was currently violating its alleged regulatory authority, the issues presented in this case were ripe. View "Metro Water District of Salt Lake & Sandy v. Sorf" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of one count of threatening with or using a dangerous weapon in a fight or quarrel, holding that there was no error in the district court's judgment. Defendant, a detective with the Unified Police Department, was bird hunting when he angrily confronted another hunter's group with his service weapon drawn and held at his side. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in treating the relevant statute's exception for persons acting in self-defense and peace officers in performance of their duties as affirmative defenses rather than elements of the offense. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under Utah Code 76-10-506, self-defense and acting as a peace officer in performance of duties are affirmative defenses, not elements of the offense; (2) the declaration from a juror submitted by Defendant in support of his motion for a new trial was inadmissible under Utah R. Evid. 606(b); and (3) the district court's deadlock instruction was not unconstitutionally coercive. View "State v. Bess" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing on summary judgment Plaintiff's claims against Box Elder County and the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office, including claims of violations of his rights to due process and bail, holding that the court did not err in dismissing the bail clause claims but erred in dismissing the due process claims. Plaintiff was held in the Box Elder County Jail for seventeen days on a probable cause determination that he was driving under the influence, but no evidence showed that he was actually driving impaired, and Plaintiff was never brought before a judge for his initial appearance or formally charged with any crimes. The district court concluded that Plaintiff had not suffered a flagrant violation of his constitutional rights and that he could not identify a specific municipal employee who had violated his rights. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff's bail clause claims were properly dismissed because Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the bail clause was self-executing; but (2) the court incorrectly applied the standard for determining when a municipal employee is liable for damages for a constitutional violation in dismissing Plaintiff's due process claims. View "Kuchcinski v. Box Elder County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision to exclude all evidence of Keystone Insurance Agency's alleged damage under Utah R. Civ. P. 26(d)(4) in Keystone's suit against Inside Insurance, the court's dismissal of all of Keystone's claims with the exception of Keystone's request for declaratory relief, and the court's dismissal of Inside's counterclaims, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. In its complaint, Keystone requested that the district court declare Keystone a member of Inside and sought to inspect certain records. Inside asserted several counterclaims. After the district court entered its judgment the Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Keystone failed to provide Inside with a viable computation of its claimed damages in compliance with Utah R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1)(C), and therefore, the district court properly excluded Keystone's damages evidence under rule 26(d)(4); (2) the district court properly denied Keystone's motion for reconsideration; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing with prejudice Inside's expulsion counterclaim seeking expulsion of Keystone as a member of Inside pursuant to Utah R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2) and (c). View "Keystone Insurance Agency, LLC v. Inside Insurance, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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The Supreme Court sanctioned Judge Michael Kwan to a six-month suspension without pay for Kwan's violations of the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct, holding that a six-month suspension was an appropriate sanction. Judge Kwan violated the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct when he made politically charged comments to a defendant in his courtroom and when he improperly used his judicial authority to seek the removal of a member of the court's staff from the premises. Kwan further violated the code of conduct when he made an online post critical of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. The Judicial Conduct Commission recommended a six-month suspension. Judge Kwan argued that the sanction was inappropriate because it was an unlawful attempt to regulate his constitutionally-protected speech. The Supreme Court concluded that a six-month suspension without pay was appropriate, holding (1) a judicial disciplinary proceeding is an improper venue to press Judge Kwan's constitutional claims, and, bound by precedent, this Court declines to address the constitutional questions; and (2) Judge Kwan's online speech that he conceded the Court could permissibly sanction, combined with the other misconduct, warranted the six-month suspension. View "In re Inquiry of Honorable Judge Michael Kwan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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In this divorce matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals upholding the orders of the district court regarding child support and parent-time, holding that the court of appeals properly found that it had limited appellate jurisdiction over this matter and did not err in upholding the district court's orders regarding child support and parent-time. Mother filed for a divorce in 2010. The case dragged on for the better part of a decade. Before the Supreme Court, Father argued that the court of appeals (1) erred by construing his notice of appeal to limit the scope of the court of appeals' appellate jurisdiction, (2) erred in affirming the district court's order regarding his child support obligations, and (3) erred in affirming the district court's order denying his petition to modify the amended decree. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed, holding (1) Father's notice of appeal limited the scope of appellate jurisdiction; (2) the court of appeals correctly upheld the district court's order regarding child support; and (3) the court of appeals correctly rejected Father's arguments regarding his petition to modify. View "Pulham v. Kirsling" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court declining to enter summary judgment for Appellants on the grounds that the Utah Declaratory Judgment Act requires neighbors objecting to fences that encroach on bridle paths to sue all homeowners whose property is subject to the bridle path easement, rather than just those homeowners who have fences that infringe on the path, holding that no such joinder is required. Appellants brought suit alleging that Appellees - four of approximately one hundred homeowners in Bell Canyon Acres Community - intruded upon bridle paths in the neighborhood for the use of residents, thereby violating the restrictive covenants that apply to the lots in Bell Canyon Acres. Appellants sought a declaratory judgment determining the parties' on the bridle paths and declaring that Appellees were encroaching on the bridle paths. The district court denied Appellants' motion for summary judgment, concluding that Utah Code 78B-6-403(1) required that all homeowners in the community whose property was subject to the restrictive covenants and the bridle path easement (the outsiders) were required to be joined. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 403 provided no impediment to the declaratory judgment Appellants sought and that the outsiders did not need to be joined as parties. View "Bell Canyon Acres Homeowners Ass'n v. McLelland" on Justia Law

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In this contract dispute stemming from a seller-financed real estate transaction, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court, holding primarily that the district court was not precluded by the mandate rule from determining that the promissory note did not require the buyers to pay any incurred late fee amounts to bring note current because the court construed an ambiguity in the note against the defendants, as drafters, without first considering extrinsic evidence. The buyers purchased the real estate with a promissory note that required them to make an installment payment each month and a final balloon payment. The note applied a ten percent base interest rate on the unpaid principal and established consequences if the buyers missed an installment payment, including a late fee and bump up in the base interest rate until the note was brought current. The buyers made the installment payments but disagreed over the amount owing the final balloon payment, leading to litigation. The Supreme Court remanded the case for a new determination after the court considers relevant extrinsic evidence and held that the district court did not clearly err in determining that extrinsic evidence showed that the parties did not intent the note's late fee to apply to the final payment. View "Brady v. Park" on Justia Law

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In this case alleging a defect in a ladder, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claims on the ground that Plaintiff failed to carry the burden of presenting grounds for the establishment of a duty under AMS Salt Industries, Inc. v. Magnesium Corp. of America, 942 P.2d 315 (Utah 1997), and its progeny, holding the district court applied the wrong legal standard in dismissing Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff was injured when she fell off a pump house ladder to make an adjustment to a pump at a splash pad located in the City of Springville. Plaintiff sued the contractor the city hired to construct the splash pad and pump house and the subcontractor hired by the contractor to manufacture the ladder. The district court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment on the ground that they did not owe Plaintiff a legal duty. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the Restatement (Second) of Torts framework endorsed in Tallman v. City of Hurricane, 985 P.2d 892 (Utah 1999), and not the factors set forth in AMS Salt, controlled in this case. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that Tallman controlled and that remand was required for consideration of the relevant duty inquiry adopted in Tallman. View "Sumsion v. J Lyne Roberts & Sons Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's summary judgment decision denying Appellant's petition for relief under the Post-Conviction Remedies Act (PCRA), Utah Code 78B-9-101, et seq., holding that Appellant failed to satisfy his burden of persuasion on appeal. Appellant was convicted of aggravated burglary, theft, and criminal mischief. Appellant later filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he was entitled to relief under the PCRA. The district court granted summary judgment for the State. On appeal, Appellant argued that his due process rights under the Utah Constitution were violated when certain evidence was destroyed in accordance with rule 4-206 of the Utah Code of Judicial Administration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant failed to comply with any portion of the PCRA that could offer him relief; and (2) Appellant failed to demonstrate that the disposal of evidence violated his state due process rights. View "Sandoval v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law