Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of rape of a child, holding that each of Defendant’s claims on appeal failed. Specifically, the Court held (1) this Court declines to consider whether the district court erred in relying upon each of the factors previously articulated in State v. Shickles, 760 P.2d 291 (Utah 1998), to determine the admissibility of Defendant’s previous acts of child molestation because review of this claim was precluded by the invited error doctrine; (2) the district court did not err in admitting evidence of Defendant’s prior acts of child molestation; and (3) Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel failed because he did not show that any of counsel’s alleged deficiencies constituted deficient performance and resulted in prejudice. View "State v Ring" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during a Terry stop. Specifically, the Court held (1) when law enforcement officers stopped Defendant’s vehicle, they had reasonable suspicion to investigate two traffic violations and possible drug possession; (2) when the officers approached the vehicle they gained reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence; and (3) under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the officers were entitled to detain Defendant for a reasonable time while they investigated these offenses. View "State v. Binks" on Justia Law

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Unavailability of witnesses for trial may not be established merely on the basis of an illness on the particular day a trial is scheduled by a court. Rather, there must be a showing that the illness is of such an extended duration that a reasonable continuance would not allow the witness to testify. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s aggravated robbery conviction but affirmed Defendant’s possession of a firearm by a restricted conviction. The court held (1) the trial court committed prejudicial error in admitting preliminary hearing testimony under Utah R. Evid. 804 because the witness in question was not unavailable for trial under the standard clarified in this opinion and because the testimony was inadmissible because Defendant’s motive to cross-examine the witnesses at the preliminary hearing was not similar to the one he would have at trial; and (2) any error in admitting evidence of field test results, offered to confirm that a substance found on Defendant was marijuana, was harmless. View "State v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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A notice of termination may be an adverse employment action independent of an actual termination under the Utah Protection of Public Employees Act (UPPEA). Plaintiff filed suit against Employer, claiming infringement of her free speech rights under the Utah Constitution and under the UPPEA. Employer moved for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that the UPPEA claim was time-barred because Plaintiff suffered an “adverse employment action” triggering the 180-day filing requirement under the UPPEA. The United States District Court certified three questions for the Utah Supreme Court’s review. The Supreme Court declined to exercise its discretion to resolve the first two questions and instead answered only the third question. The court answered the question as set forth above and set forth an analytical framework for assessing whether such employment actions are independent of each other under the UPPEA. View "Zimmerman v. University of Utah" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to the Board of Pardons and Parole on the question of whether it violated the due process rights of Michael Neese, a Utah prison inmate, under Utah Const. art. I, 7. The Parole Board denied Neese - who had never been convicted of a sex offense, subjected to prison discipline for sexual misconduct, or otherwise adjudicated a sexual offender - an original release date for parole largely based on its determination that he was a sex offender and his refusal to participate in sex offender treatment. Neese filed a pro se petition for a writ of extraordinary release, arguing that the Parole Board violated his due process rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the Parole Board, concluding that Neese received due process under the Utah Constitution. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that before the Parole Board may take the refusal of inmates in the position of Neese to participate in sex offender treatment into consideration in deciding whether to grant them parole, it owes them additional procedural protections described in this opinion. View "Neese v. Utah Board of Pardons & Parole" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants’ motion to suppress the result of a search executed pursuant to a search warrant. The warrant was signed by a magistrate and executed by the police. Defendants moved under the state and federal constitutions to suppress the result of the search, challenging the magistrate’s probable cause determination. The district court found that there was no probable cause but that the federal good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. When Defendants again moved to suppress, the court suppressed the evidence under the state constitution, concluding that there was no state good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The Supreme Court reversed without reaching the questions of whether the court has recognized an exclusionary rule under the Utah Constitution or whether there should be a good faith exception to such a rule, holding that there was a substantial basis for the magistrate’s probable cause determination. View "State v. Rowan" on Justia Law

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Utah Code 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii), a provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) that limits the time an injured worker has to prove a claim, is a statute of repose but is nevertheless constitutional under the Open Courts Clause of the Utah Constitution. Section 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii) provides that an employee claiming compensation for a workplace injury must prove that he or she is due the compensation claimed within twelve years from the date of the accident. Petitioners filed claims to receive permanent total disability benefits more than twelve years after the original workplace accident that led to their injuries. Petitioners’ claims were dismissed as untimely under the statute. In petitioning for review, Petitioners argued that the statute acts as a statute of repose and is unconstitutional under the Open Courts Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii) is a statute of repose but withstands Open Courts Clause scrutiny. View "Waite v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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Utah Code 35-1-65, which provides that an injured worker who is temporarily totally disabled shall not receive compensation benefits over a period of eight years from the date of the injury, does not operate as an unconstitutional statute of repose under the Open Courts Clause of the Utah Constitution. Petitioner suffered a back injury while working for the Granite School District in 1982. An impartial medical panel concluded that Petitioner’s injury was the medical cause of a subsequent surgery in 2014, but an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Utah Labor Commission denied Petitioner’s request for temporary total disability compensation on the ground that more than eight years had elapsed since the date of the injury. The Appeals Board of the Commission affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 35-1-64 does not abrogate any previously existing remedy and so is not subject to an Open Courts Clause challenge; and (2) the Workers’ Compensation Act is an adequate substitute remedy for Petitioner’s common law tort of action. View "Petersen v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal of the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to aggravated murder and other offenses and no contest plea to three counts of attempted aggravated murder. The district court denied the motion on the ground that the Plea Withdrawal Statute, Utah Code 77-13-6, provides that a “request to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest…shall be made by motion before sentence is announced.” On appeal, Defendant challenged the constitutionality of the statute and contended that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when he entered the plea agreement. The Supreme Court held (1) the jurisdictional bar imposed by the Plea Withdrawal Statute does not deprive a defendant of his constitutional right to an appeal; and (2) Appellant did not timely move to withdraw his pleas, and therefore, Appellant forfeited his right to direct appeal. View "State v. Allgier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court adjudicating D.G. and R.G. delinquent for committing aggravated sexual assault. The juvenile court denied the motions filed by D.G. and R.G. to suppress their post-Miranda statements regarding the sexual assault to a detective during an interview, and both interviews with the detective regarding the sexual assault were introduced at trial. D.G. and R.G. appealed, arguing that the juvenile court erred in denying the motion to suppress their post-Miranda statements. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Miranda warnings given to D.G. and R.G. were sufficient according to the standards set by this court and the United States Supreme Court; and (2) both D.G. and R.G. knowingly and voluntarily waived their Miranda rights. View "In re R.G." on Justia Law