Articles Posted in Civil Rights

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ putative class action lawsuit in which they alleged that Salt Lake City unjustly enriched itself by fining them for failing to use a parking meter at a time when there were no longer any parking meters in the City - only pay stations - but the City had not yet prohibited parking without paying at a pay station. Plaintiffs also alleged that the City’s notices violated due process. The district court granted the City’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the City’s notices were sufficient to apprise Plaintiffs of both their right to challenge their parking tickets and their opportunity for a hearing on that challenge; and (2) because Plaintiffs did not exhaust their legal remedies before seeking to challenge their tickets through an equitable action Plaintiffs failed to state an equitable enrichment claim. View "Bivens v. Salt Lake City" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and sentence of a composite term of thirty years to life in prison. The court held (1) to the extent that Defendant’s arguments that the district court erred in admitting expert testimony by a forensic interviewer at the Children’s Justice Center, they lacked merit; (2) the district court did not violate Defendant’s constitutional right to present a complete defense when it excluded evidence of a witness’s supposed prior false accusations of sexual misconduct; and (3) there was no abuse of discretion in the district court’s sentencing decision. View "State v. Martin" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order granting Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained incident to his arrest. The district court concluded that the law enforcement officer who stopped Defendant’s vehicle for an improper lane change 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 (1) to promote officer safety, the Fourth Amendment does not prevent an officer from asking a passenger to produce identification and running a warrants check so long as that does not unreasonably prolong the duration of the stop; and (2) in this case, the officer’s seconds-long extension of the lawful traffic stop did not unreasonably prolong the detention. View "State v. Martinez" 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
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
Defendant was convicted of possessing a shank in prison. Defendant appealed, arguing (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss because the State lost or destroyed a video recording of the discovery of the shank, and (2) his counsel was ineffective in stipulating to the due process analysis applicable to claims regarding evidence destroyed or lost by the State. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the due process analysis set forth in State v. Tiedemann, Defendant’s due process rights were not violated; and (2) Defendant’s counsel did not provide ineffective assistance. View "State v. Mohamud" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was charged and tried on four counts of theft and one count of attempted theft. After a jury trial, all jurors found Defendant guilty on all five counts. Defendant challenged his conviction under the Unanimous Verdict Clause of the Utah Constitution, alleging that there was lack of unanimity as to alternative factual theories advanced by the prosecution in support of some of the theft counts against him. Alternatively, Defendant alleged two other sets of trial errors as grounds for reversal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) precedent does not support the requirement of unanimity or sufficiency of the evidence for alternative, exemplary means of committing a crime, and the Utah Constitution imposes no such requirement; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict; and (3) Defendant otherwise failed to identify a basis for reversal of his convictions. View "State v. Hummel" on Justia Law

by
The district court terminated Father’s parental rights with respect to his child, making the child legally available for adoption by her stepfather. Father appealed the termination order. The court of appeals certified the case for transfer to the Supreme Court. At issue before the Supreme Court were Father’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and claims to the right to counsel under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and under the due process clause of the Utah Constitution. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Father had a federal due process right to counsel in the district court proceedings and that that right was erroneously denied in violation of Father’s federal due process rights. View "In re K.A.S." on Justia Law

by
Mother’s parental rights to her daughter were terminated. During the termination proceedings at the juvenile court, Mother was unrepresented by counsel. At the end of the proceeding, the juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence that Mother was unfit as a parent and that it was in the best interests of the child to be placed with Adoptive Parents. Mother appealed, challenging on multiple constitutional grounds Utah Code 78A-6-1111(2), the statutory scheme that provides appointed counsel for indigent parents in state-initiated parental termination proceedings while denying such counsel for indigent parents in privately initiated proceedings. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) section 78A-6-1111(2) is not facially unconstitutional; but (2) the court erred in relying on the statute to deny Mother’s request for counsel without considering Mother’s circumstances and due process rights. View "In re E.K.S." on Justia Law