Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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In 2010, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) condemned an access point from Bangerter Highway to the West Point Shopping Center. At the time of the condemnation, the shopping center was owned by FPA West Point, LLC. FPA leased buildings in the shopping center to a number of businesses, including K MART Corporation (Kmart). Both FPA and Kmart entered the condemnation proceedings, asserting rights to just compensation. The first appeal (Utah Department of Transportation v. FPA West Point, LLC) addressed valuation methods in the context of a condemnation award determination. In that case, the Utah Supreme Court held that courts must use the aggregate-of-interests approach (which determines the value of properties with divided ownership interests by assessing the value of each property interest separately) in deciding the amount of a condemnation award. In this appeal the issue presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether the district court erred by granting a condemnation award to Kmart, a lessee, even though Kmart’s lease contained a clause terminating its leasehold interest in the event of a condemnation. The Court held that it did: because the termination clause extinguished all of Kmart’s compensable property interests, Kmart was not entitled to compensation. Accordingly, the district court’s grant of a condemnation award to Kmart was reversed. View "UDOT v. Kmart Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of child abuse homicide, holding that Defendant’s challenges to expert testimony provided in his case would not receive consideration and that the district court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. The Court, however, took the opportunity provided in this case to rebuke sole reliance on the factors set forth in Salt Lake City v. Carter, 664 P.2d 1168 (Utah 1983) for the determination of whether an individual is in custody for purposes of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) and clarified the role these factors play going forward in order to bring courts in lockstep with the United States Supreme Court as to this determination. View "State v. Fullerton" on Justia Law

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Travis Tulley claimed that while he was napping on Victim’s couch, Victim held a knife to his forehead and attempted to grope his genitals. In response, Tulley violently assaulted Victim, a 71-year-old man. Tulley wanted to introduce evidence at trial of Victim’s prior sexual misconduct. The district court excluded much of that evidence, but held that Tulley could present some of it in a “sanitized” form. Tulley also asked the district court to instruct the jury that he would be entitled to defend himself if he was trying to prevent “forcible sexual abuse.” The district court declined Tulley’s request. The jury convicted Tulley of reckless aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult and interference with an arresting officer. Tulley received a sentence enhancement because he qualified as a habitual violent offender. Granting Tulley's petition for certiorari review, the Utah Supreme Court concluded the district court correctly excluded evidence of Victim’s prior sexual misconduct and correctly instructed the jury. Furthermore, the Court determined Utah’s aggravated abuse statute was not unconstitutionally vague and concluded Tulley did not meet his burden of establishing that Utah’s habitual violent offender statute violated either the Utah Constitution’s cruel and unusual punishment clause or the double jeopardy clause. View "Utah v. Tulley" on Justia 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