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Ten years after the parents of B.W.D. and her younger sisters divorced, B.W.D. filed an amended petition alleging that Father had abused and neglected her younger sisters. B.W.D. petitioned the juvenile court to transfer custody solely to her. The juvenile court sua sponte dismissed the petition without giving B.W.D. an opportunity to be heard, basing much of its decision on Utah Code 78B-13-802, which provides that a court must decline jurisdiction if it would have jurisdiction only “because a person invoking the jurisdiction has engaged in unjustifiable conduct.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the juvenile court erred in applying an “unjustifiable conduct” test, and its inconvenient-forum determination was deficient, leading it to erroneously deny B.W.D.'s petition. View "In re S.W." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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An order of complete restitution that is part of a plea in abeyance is a final order for purposes of appeal. The two underlying cases in this appeal both turned on the same issue regarding whether orders of restitution that were part of pleas in abeyance were final orders appealable as of right. In the first case, the court of appeals determined that the order of restitution was not appealable. In the second case, the court of appeals concluded that it was bound by the holding in the first case. Both appeals were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the court of appeals in both cases, holding that the court of appeals had jurisdiction over Defendants’ appeals because the district court’s restitution orders for both Defendants were orders of complete restitution rather than court-ordered restitution. The court remanded the cases to the court of appeals to consider the merits of Defendants’ appeals. View "State v. Mooers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The district court correctly construed the petitioner’s petition as an attempt to modify a final estate order, making his petition untimely. Twenty-two years after the estate of Gordon Warren Womack (the Decedent) was settled, his son, Gordon Douglas Womack (Mr. Womack), filed a petition to reopen the estate. Specifically, Mr. Womack sought to interpret a provision in the Decedent’s will that left a life estate in oil, gas, and mineral properties to his children, with the remainder to his grandchildren. Mr. Womack argued that the provision had not been construed in past orders of the district court regarding the Decedent’s estate and, accordingly, was not barred by the statute of limitations. The district court denied the petition. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the petition was an untimely petition to interpret a will that had already been construed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the petition, as an attempt to reconstrue the Decedent’s will and modify the district court’s order, was severely untimely. View "In re Estate of Womack" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Defendant was entitled to withdraw his plea of guilty to rape because the district court abused its discretion by mechanically applying the factors set forth in State v. Shickles, 760 P.2d 291 (Utah 1988) to assess the probative value of the state’s Utah R. Evid. 404(b) evidence. In making this determination, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the district court was required to apply the doctrine of chances’ four foundational requirements, outlined in State v. Verde, 296 P.3d 673 (Utah 2012), to conclude that certain testimony was admissible under Utah R. Evid. 403. Thus the court affirmed the court of appeals’ ultimate conclusion that the district court’s evidentiary ruling was in error but under different reasoning. View "State v. Lowther" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision in Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment v. Executive Director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality, 391 P.3d 148 (Utah 2016) (Utah Physicians I) and dismissed the petition for review in this case for reasons set forth in the court’s decision in that case. In both cases the Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality approved a permit for a new project at an oil refinery, and the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality affirmed the issuance of the permit. In both cases, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and others (collectively, Petitioners) sought to challenge the Executive Director’s final action in a judicial proceeding. In Utah Physicians I, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition on procedural grounds because Petitioners failed to identify specific parts of the Executive Director’s final order they believed were incorrect. Because Petitioners made the same error in this case, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition for review. View "Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment v. Executive Director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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Legal malpractice claims are presumed to be voluntarily assignable. Eagle Mountain City entered into a contractual arrangement with Cedar Valley Water Association to share in recovery from a legal malpractice action brought against Parsons Kinghorn & Harris, P.C. The City brought the legal malpractice action in its own name. At issue was whether the contractual arrangement transferred sufficient control over the malpractice claim from the City to Cedar Valley to constitute an assignment. The district court dismissed the case without prejudice on the ground that the assignment of legal malpractice claims violates public policy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, even assuming the City assigned its legal malpractice claim, this assignment does not violate public policy. View "Eagle Mountain City v. Parsons Kinghorn & Harris, P.C." on Justia Law

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Dos Lagos, LLC and Mellon Valley, LLC defaulted on a loan in which Utah First Federal Credit Union owned a fifty-two percent interest and RADC/CADC Venture, LLC (RADC) owned a forty-eight percent interest. Utah First filed a deficiency action against Dog Lagos, Mellon Valley, and several guarantors (collectively, Dos Lagos). After the statute of limitations had expired, Utah First filed an emended complaint adding RADC as a party plaintiff. The district court awarded RADC the full amount of the loan, concluding that the amended complaint related back to the date of the original complaint under Utah R. Civ. P. 15(c). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err when it found that RADC’s claim was not time barred and awarded RADC the full deficiency amount. View "2010-1 RADC/CADC Venture, LLC v. Dos Lagos, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case concerning a general contractor’s attempt to recover on a mechanic’s lien involved two phases. In the first phase, Jordan Construction, Inc. prevailed on its counterclaims against Scott Bell. In the second phase, Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) was brought into the action as a third-party defendant. FNMA subsequently succeeded in a series of motions before the district court. FNMA then stipulated to the payment of $126,956.92, the amount of the original mechanic’s lien. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that FNMA is not bound by the earlier judgment rendered against Bell under either the recording of the lis pendens or the doctrine of res judicata; (2) did not err in ruling that Jordan Construction’s amended notice of lien was untimely; (3) did not err in ruling that, under the 2008 Utah Code, Jordan Construction was not entitled to recover prejudgment interest on its mechanic’s lien claim; and (4) properly awarded FNMA attorney fees under the mechanic’s lien statute. View "Jordan Construction, Inc. v. Federal National Mortgage Ass’n" on Justia Law

Posted in: Construction Law