Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing on summary judgment Plaintiff's claims against Box Elder County and the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office, including claims of violations of his rights to due process and bail, holding that the court did not err in dismissing the bail clause claims but erred in dismissing the due process claims. Plaintiff was held in the Box Elder County Jail for seventeen days on a probable cause determination that he was driving under the influence, but no evidence showed that he was actually driving impaired, and Plaintiff was never brought before a judge for his initial appearance or formally charged with any crimes. The district court concluded that Plaintiff had not suffered a flagrant violation of his constitutional rights and that he could not identify a specific municipal employee who had violated his rights. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff's bail clause claims were properly dismissed because Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the bail clause was self-executing; but (2) the court incorrectly applied the standard for determining when a municipal employee is liable for damages for a constitutional violation in dismissing Plaintiff's due process claims. View "Kuchcinski v. Box Elder County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court summarily dismissing Appellant’s petition for post-conviction relief, holding that the district court erred in determining that, as a matter of undisputed fact and law, Appellant was not prejudiced by his defense counsel’s conduct at either the guilt or sentencing phases of Appellant’s trial. In 1985, Appellant was sentenced to death for murder. In 2011, Appellant’s current counsel located two witnesses who testified in the murder case, and obtained their sworn declarations that the police threatened them if they did not cooperate in the case against Appellant, that their testimony was coached, and that they were instructed to lie under oath about benefits they received from the State. Appellant filed a petition for post-conviction relief based upon these revelations, but the district court dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing, holding that Appellant demonstrated a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether he was prejudiced. View "Carter v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of rape and forcible sexual assault of his wife, holding that a single error occurred below, and the error was not prejudicial. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant failed to preserve for appeal his argument that the trial judge violated his constitutional rights by making comments to the jury pool about the O.J. Simpson case; (2) the trial court did not err in concluding that alleged sexual partner evidence created a danger of unfair prejudice that substantially outweighed the evidence’s probative value; (3) the trial court did not err in admitting evidence of Defendant’s prior bad acts or limiting defense counsel’s cross-examination of the victim on that point; and (4) Defendant was not prejudiced by his trial counsel’s failure to object to the trial judge’s comments to the jury. View "State v. Beverly" 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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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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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