Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s denial of the motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by several property developers (Developers) alleging that the City of West Jordan violated statutory provisions that regulate how a municipality may spend impact fees collected from developers. The court held (1) Developers had standing to challenge the constitutionality of the impact fees they were assessed; (2) Developers failed to state a takings claim for which relief can be granted because Developers’ allegations that West Jordan either failed to spend impact fees within six years or spent the fees on impermissible expenditures were inadequate to support a constitutional takings claim; and (3) Developers did not have standing to bring a claim in equity. View "Alpine Homes, Inc. v. City of West Jordan" 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
In 1997, Paul Haik argued before the federal district court that Salt Lake City and Alta’s refusal to extend adequate municipal water services to his undeveloped land in the Albion Basin Subdivision was a violation of equal protection and amounted to an unconstitutional taking. The federal court ruled against Haik. In 2012, Haik filed another federal lawsuit alleging different legal claims but, for the most part, the same facts. In the lawsuit, Haik again sought a determination that Salt Lake City was required to supply him with enough water to develop his property in Albion Basin. The federal court again ruled against Haik. Thereafter, Salt Lake City sued Haik in state court seeking, inter alia, to adjudicate Haik’s and others’ interests in water rights in Little Cottonwood Creek. Haik counterclaimed, adducing exactly the same facts as he put before the federal district court in 2012. The district court dismissed the counterclaims on the grounds that they were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Although Haik did not raise each and every claim in the federal court that he sought to raise here, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, on the operative facts before the Court, it was impossible for Haik to overcome the hurdle of claim preclusion. View "Salt Lake City Corp. v. Haik" on Justia Law

by
Melvin Brown, who lost his Republic Primary election for the Utah House of Representatives by nine votes, contested the results of the primary election under Utah Code 20A-4-403(2) - Utah’s election contest statute - arguing that certain ballots were improperly disqualified. Logan Wilde, the winner of the primary election, argued that the election contest statute is an unconstitutional expansion of the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction. The Supreme Court agreed and issued a per curiam order holding that Utah Code 20A-4-403(2)(a)(ii), which purports to provide the Supreme Court with original jurisdiction over multi-county election contests, was unconstitutional. The Court then issued this opinion to more fully explain the basis for the order, holding that section 20A-4-403(2)(a)(ii) cannot extend the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to adjudicate multi-county election disputes, and that provision of the elections code is struck as unconstitutional. View "Brown v. Cox" on Justia Law

by
In 2000, Uintah County conducted a tax sale but failed to provide the record mineral interest owners notice of the sale. More than a decade later, the individuals who were the record owners of the mineral interest prior to the tax sale and the purchaser of the tax title disputed who lawfully owned the mineral reserve. The district court granted summary judgment to the record mineral interest owners. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Utah Code 78B-2-206 was triggered by the County’s tax sale, which was conducted in violation of the Due Process Clause, the Court cannot apply that limitations statute to bar the record mineral interest owners’ suit; and (2) because a failure to provide notice to an interested party of a tax sale also serves as a jurisdictional defect, the County failed to obtain jurisdiction over the mineral interest, thereby preventing that property interest from passing at the tax sale. View "Jordan v. Jensen" on Justia Law