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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

ACLU of Utah 1997 Annual Report

21 August 1998 Published in Annual Reports

What is perhaps most remarkable about the following annual report is the surprising number of victories we were able to achieve at a time of such menacing assaults on civil liberties. We are proud of the strength of our resistance. We have brought to the battle a sophisticated network of fighters - from the vast experience and commitment of our staff, cooperating attorneys, and interns, to our dedicated and determined board of directors. In addition, our efforts have been strengthened through the successful collaboration with many other coalition partners who have helped us with our work in overseeing police practices and prison mental health policies, in fighting language discrimination, and in working towards gay and lesbian rights. As we strive to raise our voices today through the efforts of our new public education department, we are also investing in the future by educating our young people about the protections outlined in the Bill of Rights.

 

Letter from the Executive Director


What is perhaps most remarkable about the following annual report is the surprising number of victories we were able to achieve at a time of such menacing assaults on civil liberties. We are proud of the strength of our resistance. We have brought to the battle a sophisticated network of fighters - from the vast experience and commitment of our staff, cooperating attorneys, and interns, to our dedicated and determined board of directors. In addition, our efforts have been strengthened through the successful collaboration with many other coalition partners who have helped us with our work in overseeing police practices and prison mental health policies, in fighting language discrimination, and in working towards gay and lesbian rights. As we strive to raise our voices today through the efforts of our new public education department, we are also investing in the future by educating our young people about the protections outlined in the Bill of Rights.

We hope that you will take the time to read this annual report. I am certain that like myself, you will be very proud of the scope of our activities in 1997. The following pages reflect an active and vital organization, dedicated to meeting the continued challenges to civil liberties that confront us daily. Importantly, all of our work depends upon your support, and we thank you for your continued commitment to protecting civil liberties in Utah.

Carol L. Gnade, Executive Director

Mission and Programs


The American Civil Liberties Union, founded in 1920, is a nationwide, nonpartisan organization dedicated to working in the courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by both the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

The ACLU of Utah was chartered in 1958 to work on constitutional issues that are pertinent to those living in this state. Our priorities include freedom of speech and expression, the separation of church and state, freedom of religion and association, the right to privacy, and equal protection and due process of the law.

1997 Legal Highlights


Through negotiation, mediation, and litigation, the ACLU of Utah’s legal department takes on those constitutional issues that are systemic, and whose resolution will therefore benefit a large number of people. The following stories reflect both the wide range of issues that we addressed last year, as well as our different approaches to combating the various attacks on individual civil rights:

Gay and Lesbian Rights


Wendy Weaver had taught at Spanish Fork High School for 17 years, and during that time, she received outstanding evaluations from her peers and supervisors, and led the school’s volleyball team to four state championships. Weaver is also a lesbian, and as a result, she came face to face with the sort of discrimination that confronts many gay and lesbian employees today. Last spring, the high school principal advised her that she would no longer be able to coach volleyball at the school. And, although she had never discussed her sexual orientation with any of her students, school district officials required her to sign a memo stating that she would risk termination if she made, "comments, announcements or statements to students, staff members or parents of students regarding [her] homosexual orientation or lifestyle." In addition, the memo did not allow her to answer questions about her homosexuality honestly. By crafting this memo, the school district essentially asked that Weaver sign away her First Amendment rights, and in doing so, disregarded the professionalism she had exhibited in her long tenure at the high school. In October, the ACLU of Utah filed a complaint against the school district alleging violation of Weaver’s fundamental rights to freedom of speech, privacy, and equal protection.

The Treatment of Inmates with Mental Illness


Michael Valent was diagnosed as a schizophrenic when he was 19 years old. Unfortunately, his treatment for schizophrenia began only after "the voices" told him to kill his grandmother. After pleading guilty but mentally ill to causing his grandmother’s death, Valent spent six years at the Utah State Mental Hospital and was then transferred to the Utah State Prison. Four years after he moved to Draper, Valent became a victim of the prison’s harsh treatment of inmates with psychiatric conditions. For the last sixteen hours of his life, Valent was strapped to what inmates called the "devil’s chair," a multi-point restraint chair that placed him in a jack-knife position and left his legs dangling. He was not allowed to wear anything or be covered, and despite the prison’s own medical policy, he was never let up or given the opportunity to exercise his legs or arms. Consequently, blood clots formed in his legs and, when he was finally released, one of those clots disengaged and caused a massive heart attack, killing him when he was only twenty-nine years old.

Valent’s experience with multi-point restraint was not unusual at the state prison. In May, the ACLU of Utah and the Disability Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of inmate NLS. NLS had a long and well-documented history of mental illness, including numerous suicide attempts and disturbing incidents of self-mutilation. During his incarceration at the prison, NLS was taken off all the medications intended to treat his mental illness, and shackled, with metal restraints, to a stainless steel board in a spread-eagle position for over 12 weeks. NLS was released from the board on an average of only four times per week, and long periods of time passed during which he received no attention from medical staff for his basic needs. While NLS was shackled to the board, he was placed in a cell where the light glared 24 hours a day, he was given minimal cover, and little attention was paid to his personal hygiene needs.

In September, the ACLU of Utah reached a favorable settlement on behalf of NLS. Also, our aggressive investigation into the treatment of the mentally ill in the prison and our ongoing negotiations with state officials led to a change in the Department of Corrections’ leadership. We are encouraged by the new administration, which immediately agreed to a complete moratorium on the use of the restraint chair. The prison administration remains accessible, and we are hopeful that in the future, we will be able to address problems before something as tragic and unnecessary as Valent’s death occurs again.

Data Privacy


As it becomes easier to store and gain access to information on computers, data privacy is of increasing concern. Nationally, the ACLU initiated a massive public education campaign highlighting the electronic information databases maintained by various government agencies. In Utah, we were particularly troubled by the so-called "Smart Card" that was proposed during the 1997 legislative session. This new drivers’ license had the potential to blur the line between private business and government by the placement of medical records, credit/debit reports, and criminal records on its eight kilobyte microprocessor. In the state’s proposal, major questions remained unanswered, such as when law enforcement could gain access to the data, and how individuals could verify and change their information. The ACLU of Utah was able to defeat this legislation, and we continue to watch closely for any additional moves to create such an identification card.

The ACLU of Utah also responded to public concerns regarding the Utah Department of Human Services’ database containing all complaints of child abuse and neglect. The management of this information exemplified many of the typical problems with electronic databases: unsubstantiated complaints remained on the list, a large number of people had access to the database, and there was no process in place for someone to remove their name from the list. If a person wanted to work with children, they could be denied a job simply because their name appeared in the database. After hearing our testimony about the Child Abuse Database, the Board of Child and Family Services drafted a legislative statute to address these problems, and changed the way they handle unsubstantiated complaints.

Despite our successes with both the Smart Card and the Child Abuse Database, it is clear that data privacy will remain a high priority for the ACLU of Utah. We continue to fight for an individual’s right to have some control over how their personal information is recorded, accessed, and disseminated.

Current Docket and Case Resolutions


It is the ACLU of Utah clients who remain the true watchdogs of civil liberties. Often, the ACLU is the only organization to which they can turn when their rights have been violated, and the courage they demonstrate benefits everyone living in this state. In 1997, a number of our important cases reached favorable resolutions through either negotiated settlements or litigation.

Allred v. Solaray HIV/AIDS

In late 1994, Wallace Kim Allred was placed on leave of absence from his job at Solaray after he tested positive for cannabinoids in a random drug test. Mr. Allred immediately provided Solaray with documentation indicating that he was taking Marinol, a cannabinoid derivative, as prescribed by his physician, and that he was experiencing no side effects. Solaray demanded that Mr. Allred reveal why he was taking Marinol. When Mr. Allred admitted he was living with AIDS, the company told him he would not be allowed to have direct contact with their product and that he would have to turn over all his medical records to the company. When he refused, Mr. Allred was fired. Judge Sam granted Solaray’s Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed our case in its entirety on July 7, 1997. At the end of the year, the case was on appeal before the 10th Circuit, and settlement negotiations were underway.

Foote v. Spiegel Unlawful Search


Kristin Foote has a mild form of cerebral palsy and a slight speech impediment. On Mother’s Day, 1994 while driving to a picnic with her 4-year-old daughter, Ms. Foote was stopped by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper on pretextual grounds. Based upon Ms. Foote’s speech pattern and a green tint on her tongue, the trooper concluded she was driving under the influence. She was detained, arrested and, later, strip-searched. On a motion for summary judgment, Judge Winder held that the detention and strip search were unconstitutional, but the arrest was reasonable under the circumstances. The 10th Circuit affirmed Judge Winder’s ruling on the strip search, but reversed his holding on the detention. Summary judgment motions on the issue of the legality of the initial stop are pending, and the case is expected to proceed to trial in early 1998

Laughter v. Kay Unlawful Search


Stana Laughter and her 3-year old son went to visit her husband at the Central Utah Correctional Facility. Her car was searched at the front gate and an officer searched Ms. Laughter’s purse and other belongings. Ms. Laughter then parked her car and walked to the building for her standard visitation. Then another officer told her he had a search warrant authorizing a full body search of her and her son. Her car and personal belongings were again searched with the aid of a dog, and Ms. Laughter was then accompanied to a hospital where an ER doctor conducted an intrusive body cavity search. Ms. Laughter was six months pregnant. Her son was also stripped and searched. Nothing illegal was found on either person. After the searches, Ms. Laughter was told that her visitation privileges were terminated. All of the searches were conducted under the auspices of a severely defective search warrant and with no probable cause. The ACLU of Utah filed a complaint on July 2, 1996, and cross motions for summary judgment were pending at the end of 1997.

Skultin v. Bushnell Unlawful Search


On March 2, 1996, Roy Skultin, Darcy Quimby, and Kellyjo Johnson were traveling east on Interstate 70 when they were pulled over by Utah Highway Patrol trooper Lance Bushnell. After telling them they were being pulled over for attempting to pass a camper, Trooper Bushnell ordered Mr. Skultin to exit the vehicle and then interrogated him about everything from his destination to his past criminal record. He gave Mr. Skultin a field sobriety test and continued his interrogation. Trooper Bushnell then requested and was denied permission to search Mr. Skultin’s vehicle. He ordered the two female passengers out of the car, searched the car, the trunk of the car, the luggage, both passengers’ purses, and Mr. Skultin’s wallet. After Mr. Skultin and his passengers were detained for nearly 90 minutes, they were allowed to proceed on their trip. On October 31, 1996, the ACLU of Utah filed a complaint. Discovery is completed, summary judgment motions are pending, and the case is set for trial in spring of 1998.

Valdez v. McPheters Unlawful Search


On December 7, 1993, FBI Agent Samuel McPheters and BIA Agent Greg Littlewhiteman entered and searched the home of Rosanna Valdez in search of her adult son. Although he had not lived with her for over 10 years and the officers had no search warrant, the officers searched Ms. Valdez’s home not once, but twice, in an unsuccessful attempt to locate her adult son. During both searches, Ms. Valdez alleges she was unreasonably seized (arrested) and subjected to an illegal custodial interrogation. The officers filed as motion for summary judgment, claiming they are immune from liability for the searches because it was reasonable for them to believe that Ms. Valdez’s son was in the home. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Judge Greene granted the officers’ motion for qualified immunity and dismissed the search claims. In March of 1997, trial was held on the issue of the illegal seizure, and the jury returned a no cause verdict. The ACLU of Utah filed an appeal with the 10th Circuit on the issue of qualified immunity.

Roe v. Utah County Privacy


After receiving a complaint from a local citizen, the Utah County Attorney and the Utah County Sheriff obtained a warrant allowing them to enter and search the Movie Buffs stores in Lehi and American Fork. During the course of the searches, the Sheriff’s department confiscated not only hundreds of videos they believed to be pornographic, but also lists of individuals who had rented those videos. Movie Buffs filed a section 1983 action against Utah County alleging violations of the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The ACLU of Utah has filed a motion to intervene in that lawsuit on behalf of the three individuals who believe their names appear on the confiscated lists. The ACLU of Utah’s complaint is based upon constitutional and statutory privacy rights, and it requests declaratory and injunctive relief as well as monetary damages.

Crank v. Utah Judicial Council Illegally Constituted Juries


In 1993, the ACLU of Utah and Eric Swenson filed this class action case to attack racial discrimination against Native Americans in the jury selection process in the Seventh District Court for San Juan County. Although a consent decree was entered in 1996 that required that the Utah Judicial Council make reforms in the jury selection system and establish standards for the inclusion of Native Americans on jury lists, we are once again involved in this case. The jury lists continue to under-represent Native Americans, and they are wildly out of line with the agreed standards. This problem is aggravated by Seventh District judges who continue to try criminal defendants with illegally constituted juries. The ACLU of Utah has brought contempt proceedings to enforce the consent agreement.

Jolley v. Utah State Senate Open Government


During the 1996 legislative session, twenty-five Utah State Senators met in an illegal, secret meeting. The ACLU of Utah immediately responded by filing a lawsuit against the Senate, and in February, 1997, the case was settled when senators acknowledged they had violated the state Open and Public Meetings Act.

State of Utah v. Simmons and State of Utah v. Gardner Death Penalty


In late 1995, the ACLU of Utah filed Amicus Briefs regarding a 1974 Utah law which stated that a prison inmate could be charged with a capital offense if he or she committed an assault while incarcerated for a first degree felony. In a recent decision, the Utah Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.

Jane L. v. Bangerter Reproductive Rights


The long battle over Utah’s 1991 anti-abortion law finally ended when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, thus upholding a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that deemed the law unconstitutional.

Silvermans v. State of Utah Racial and Religious Harassment


In February, 1997, the ACLU of Utah settled a case filed on behalf of William and Nancy Silverman, a Jewish couple who had worked as janitors at the Utah State Capitol for seven years. The case alleged that at the Capitol, the Silvermans had been subjected to racial and religious slurs from other employees, and to anti-Jewish graffiti.

Bennett v. Utah County Jail Conditions


In 1996, inmates at the Utah County Jail were experiencing a variety of problems due to overcrowded conditions. After the ACLU of Utah filed a suit on their behalf, Judge J. Thomas Greene issued a consent decree in which Utah County agreed to ensure that the number of inmates does not exceed the legal limit.

Cooperating Attorneys


Critical to the success of our legal work are our volunteer cooperating attorneys who are generous with both their time and expertise. In 1997, the following attorneys worked with our staff on ACLU of Utah cases:

Jensie Anderson 
Howard Lundgren 
Holly Mahoney 
Andrew McCullough 
Jeff Oritt 
John Pace 
David Sonnenreich 
Sharon Sonnenreich 
Eric Swenson 
David Watkiss 
Loren Weiss 
Mary Woodhead 
Erin Yeh

Complaints


Last year, we received a record number of complaints, and ACLU of Utah staff and interns analyzed and responded to over 1,000 written complaints from around the state. The vast majority of these did not rise to the level of a lawsuit. However, whenever possible, we attempted to resolve grievances through a phone call, a letter, or a referral. In addition, we also became much better at analyzing our incoming complaints for systemic problems. The following are the types of issues we addressed:

Complaints Regarding Law Enforcement


Clearly, there are times when law enforcement agents abuse the power entrusted to them by the public. And when that happens, the public trust demands a review of these incidents that is independent of the law enforcement agency in question. The ACLU of Utah has always accepted complaints against police activities that deny the constitutionally protected rights of individuals. Multiple complaints against a single officer, or group of officers, can lead us to contact police organizations for explanations and clarification, and where appropriate, adjustment of actions. Issues we investigated last year included due process violations, unlawful search and seizure, patterns of harassment, and excessive force.

Prison and Jail Complaints


Over half of our incoming complaints were from inmates at Utah’s prisons and jails. For this population, the ACLU truly is the only resource, since no other organization in Utah advocates for inmates’ fundamental rights, such as healthy prison conditions and adequate medical and mental health care. It is therefore very important that we are able to identify and respond in a timely manner to systemic problems in our correctional facilities. In addition to the issues already cited, the ACLU of Utah dealt with complaints concerning visitation rights, inmate correspondence, religious freedom, harassment or abuse by prison or jail officials, and inmate access to information.

General Complaints


Our general complaints include all other constitutional violations, such as privacy concerns, discrimination, and the separation of church and state.

Education and Outreach


The ACLU of Utah strongly believes that the best protection from government abuse is a thorough knowledge of our constitutional rights and protections. Consequently, public education and outreach play an important role in helping us fulfill our mission. For the first time, last year we were able to hire a part-time education director, and as a result, we dramatically increased our educational and outreach efforts. Our educational programs include the following:

Newsletter


Three times a year, we publish our newsletter, ACLUReporter. Designed especially for our members, each issue highlights our current programs and cases, and analyzes the different constitutional issues facing Utahns.

Library


In addition to the newsletter, the ACLU of Utah maintains a current library of ACLU and other resources, which we make available to students, advocates, and community organizations.

Presentations


Several times each month, ACLU of Utah staff talks to high school and college student groups and participates in different community forums. Talks and workshops range from a general explanation of the ACLU mission and the Bill of Rights, to in-depth discussions about individual rights with respect to law enforcement.

Coalition Work


The ACLU of Utah would not be able to achieve as much as it does without our very productive working relationships with a number of Utah communities and organizations. Our coalition efforts are extremely valuable, since it is through these relationships that we are able to coordinate efforts and inform communities about our programs and services. Last year, we co-sponsored a number of important events:

Supported the First National GLSEN Conference


Last spring, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network chose Salt Lake City to be the site of its first national conference. At this event, hundreds of teachers, parents, community activists, and students came together to talk about ways they could create schools in which all people are respected, regardless of sexual orientation. Salt Lake City was the logical choice for GLSEN because of the incredible response to the formation of the East High School’s Gay-Straight Student Alliance. The ACLU of Utah, which played a significant role in fighting for the club’s right to meet, was pleased to have a chance to welcome GLSEN, and publicize and participate in their valuable conference

Presented a Documentary Examining the Events at Waco


The ACLU of Utah was instrumental in bringing the prizewinning Sundance Film Festival documentary, Waco: The Rules of Engagement, to Salt Lake City. This disturbing film depicts the standoff between the federal government and the Branch Davidian religious group that began with the death of four ATF agents and ended on April 19, 1993 with the fatal fire that killed 76 Branch Davidians. The event featured a panel discussion to discuss the film’s disquieting conclusion that in their dealings with the Branch Davidians, federal agents showed a complete disregard for the Constitution. The ACLU of Utah felt it was especially important that ACLU affiliates present this film, since organizations like ours, who traditionally work to protect the rights of religious minorities, were conspicuously absent throughout the standoff.

Co-Sponsored an Exhibit on Art Censorship


The right to express oneself freely is a fundamental part of our society, and the ACLU and the artistic community have always been united in their strong commitment to unregulated and uncensored artistic expression. The ACLU of Utah was therefore very pleased to co-sponsor the Salt Lake Art Center’s exhibit, Making Waves: Controversial Art in Utah. The exhibit and accompanying lectures offered an unprecedented examination of those visual arts works that caused public outcry, drew the threat of censorship, or were censored in some way in Utah over the past century.

Organized Opposition to Proposed Official English Legislation


In July, the Legislative Interim Committee passed a bill to make English the official language of the state of Utah. The ACLU of Utah had many concerns about this legislation, namely that it would violate the Due Process and Equal Protection rights of those who are not yet proficient in English, and the First Amendment rights of state employees. We therefore began working with JEDI for Women, the Utah Coalition of La Raza, the Salt Lake County Hispanic Employees Association, and others, to plan public events voicing our opposition to this legislation, and to organize a coordinated lobbying effort. The four months of publicity and planning proved invaluable for the 1998 legislative session, and the coalition remains strong.

Intern Program


The ACLU of Utah intern program is designed to introduce interns to constitutional issues and provide experience in working with our incoming complaints. Our interns come from a wide range of backgrounds, as some are studying political science, law, or social work, and others are volunteers from the community. All interns help in the office in innumerable ways, and augment our small staff so that we can adequately address people’s concerns. Following are the experiences of some of last year’s interns:

"This summer has been an invaluable learning experience for me. This is the area of law that I am most interested in, and working for the ACLU provided me with the kind of hands on learning experience that the classroom cannot provide ... Internships of this kind are an invaluable, and often missing, component of a legal education."

"Since interning at the ACLU, I have learned how to identify issues of a constitutional nature, better handle complaints, and appropriately respond to those complaints. Most importantly, I”ve gained a sense of deep satisfaction knowing that I”m making a difference in the lives of Americans here in Utah. Now I can say with confidence that I know where I belong."

"This summer, I have focused most of my attention on prisoners’ complaints ... My exposure to inmates’ letters and complaints has taught me more about punishment and how it is carried out in this country than any of my classes at school. As a result of this experience, I have entered the Ethics in Society Honors Program and plan to write an honors thesis on the current prison system."

1997 Legal and Office Interns


Leslie Abplanalp 
Marquise Davis 
Ryan Gellert 
Lisa Guerra 
Micah Halverson 
Akiko Kawamura 
Gabe Mendel 
”Amelia Leafa Niumeitohu 
Joleen Pettee 
Lisa Putman 
Janis Ries 
Megan Risbon 
Matthew Siegler 
Peter Smith 
Emily Wood

Combined Foundation and Union Financial Report (Unaudited)

Income


Contributions and Grants $168,607.77 
Legal Expenses Awarded $79,015.04 
Interest and Other $2,845.93

Total Income $250,468.74

Expenses


Operating Costs $4608.77 
Education $6963.16 
Legal $87,606.66 
Lobbying $2,305.44 
Fundraising $25,359.82

Total Expenses $230,543.85

Balance $19,924.89

Board Members


George Frandsen, President 
Suzanne Marelius, Vice President 
Bill Orchow, Treasurer 
David Tundermann, At Large Board Member 
Lincoln Hobbs, Legal Panel Director 
Linda Hunt, National Board Representative 
Sandra Adams 
Peggy Battin 
Beverly Dalley 
Karen Denton 
Rick Gill 
Marc Hoenig 
Larry Houston 
Renee McConnell 
Andy McCullough 
Yvonne Paul 
Valerie Price 
Colleen Sandor 
Jill Sheinberg 
Matthew Wallace 
Marilyn Welles 
Janet Wolf 
Laurie Wood

Legal Panel


Andrew Deiss 
Hakeem Ishola 
Derek Langton 
Michael O”Brien 
Karen Stam 
Phyllis Vetter 
Paul Wharton 
Mary Woodhead

Staff


Carol Gnade, Executive Director 
Cori Sutherland, Education/Development Director 
Matthew Shaw, Office Manager 
Ronda Chapman, Office Manager