You may find all of the resolved cases in specific issue fields by visiting our Utah Issues pages
Racial Justice, Police Practices, Student Rights, Free Expression, Equal Protection - In 2012, the ACLU of Utah and the ACLU Racial Justice Project brought a federal lawsuit on behalf of three West High School students against school and police defendants over a “gang operation” conducted at school during school hours. During the December 2010 “gang operation,” over a dozen police officers from a joint agency gang task force entered West during school hours, detained dozens of students, interrogated them about alleged gang membership or affiliation, and recorded that information in a police database. Police photographed many of those students holding “mug-shot” style signs identifying the students’ alleged gang membership or affiliation and purported gang monikers. The database documentation and photographs opened these young people to ongoing police scrutiny and other negative consequences, even though they did not commit a crime. All of the students policed detained, interrogated and documented were of Latino, African-American or Pacific Island descent. On March 17, 2016, The Salt Lake City Police Department and the Salt Lake City School District reached a settlement agreement by committing to make broad and meaningful changes in how they treat students of color and engage in school disciplinary issues.
Free Expression - On September 9, 2015, the ACLU of Utah and the Utah Civil Rights & Liberties Foundation filed a complaint on behalf of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, Jeremy Beckham, and Alexis Levitt challenging Farmington City’s “Free Speech” Ordinance. The suit alleged that on its face, the Ordinance violated the Utah and United States Constitutions because it required a permit for almost any conceivable form of public expression and imposed criminal penalties for failing to comply. As long-time animal rights activists, Mr. Beckham and Ms. Levitt participated in peaceful protests on the sidewalk and on a public right of way to protest the conditions of the animals at Lagoon. After the protests, they were charged with misdemeanor offenses of the Ordinance because they had not obtained a permit for those free speech and assembly activities. As soon as the lawsuit was filed, the U.S District Court issued an unopposed order immediately halting enforcement of the Ordinance. Soon after, Farmington repealed the Ordinance and the criminal charges against Mr. Beckham and Ms. Levitt were dropped. A settlement was reached with Farmington City.
LGBTQ Equality, Equal Protection - The ACLU of Utah and the national ACLU LGBT Project filed a lawsuit to force the State Office of Vital Records and Statistics to recognize a married same-sex couple as legal parents of their child. The lawsuit was filed in Utah federal court on April 13, 2015, on behalf of Angie and Kami Roe, who sought to both be recognized as parents to their daughter, Lucy. Under Utah’s assisted reproduction statute, the husband of a woman who conceives with donated sperm is automatically recognized as the child’s parent. But because Angie is Kami’s wife instead of her husband, the State Office of Vital Records and Statistics refused to recognize Angie as Lucy’s parent. On Wednesday, July 15, 2015, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson ruled that the State Office of Vital Records and Statistics must recognize a same-sex married couple as legal parents of their child. The ruling holds that the state must apply Utah’s assisted reproduction parentage statute equally to same and different-sex spouses. The Utah Attorney Generals office has said that the ruling will not be appealed.
LGBT Equality, Equal Protection - The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Utah, and Strindberg & Scholnick, LLC filed a lawsuit in Utah state court on behalf of four same-sex couples who were legally married in Utah after a federal court struck down a state ban, but before the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted marriages from taking place while the state challenged the decision. Although the marriages were valid, the state announced that it had placed recognition of their marriages on hold indefinitely. The lawsuit argues that once same-sex couples are legally married in Utah, they gain protections that cannot retroactively be taken away under the due process clauses of the Utah and United States Constitution.
LGBTQ Equality, Equal Protection - On October 17, 2013, The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Utah submitted a “friend of the court” brief in support of a case challenging Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, Kitchen v. Herbert. The ACLU brief called for a heightened level of scrutiny to be placed on any law that discriminates against same-sex couples and their families. On December 20, 2013, a federal court declared that Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. On June 25, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision. On October 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the case, which means the federal court's decision stands.
Immigrants' Rights, Racial Justice, Criminal Justice, Prison/Jail - On August 5, 2011, the ACLU of Utah with cooperating attorney B. Kent Morgan of The Dyer Law Group filed a complaint in federal district court on behalf of 22-year-old college student Enrique Uroza. The complaint was filed in response to an incident in which Mr. Uroza was held at the Salt Lake County Metro Jail (Metro) for 39 days after his family posted the court-ordered bail. Mr. Uroza was held pursuant to an unconstitutional jail policy, which purportedly gives the jail authority to hold individuals who cannot prove to the satisfaction of jail officials that they are lawfully present in the United States.
Immigrants' Rights, Racial Justice - On May 3, 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Utah, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the law firm of Munger, Tolles, & Olsen filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court challenging Utah’s HB 497. HB 497 gives law enforcement the authority to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops, much like Arizona’s SB 1070. The lawsuit charged that HB 497 is unconstitutional in that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, Fourth Amendment, Equal Protection Clause, and the right to travel. The federal district court promptly blocked implementation of the law. In an Order issued Tuesday, February 21, 2012, Judge Clark Waddoups announced that he will wait to issue a decision on our request for a Preliminary Injunction (“PI”) in UCLR v. Herbert (“UCLR”), Utah’s HB 497 “Show Me Your Papers” lawsuit, until the Supreme Court issues its decision in an Arizona case that raises similar legal questions to some of the issues raised here in Utah. On June 18, 2014, the court issued a decision blocking several key provisions of the law that would have allowed police to arrest certain potentially deportable immigrants and that would have…
Free Expression - On July 8, 2011, the ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorneys Brian M. Barnard and Stewart Gollan of the Utah Legal Clinic filed an amended complaint on behalf of iMatter Utah. iMatter Utah is challenging as unconstitutional the Utah Department of Transportation’s (UDOT) requirements that event organizers, such as iMatter Utah, obtain large liability insurance policies and collect releases of liability from all event participants prior to the staging of any event or protest on UDOT property.
Racial Justice, Free Expression, Police Practices - On September 12, 2012, The ACLU of Utah, together with cooperating attorneys David Reymann of Parr Brown Gee & Loveless and Randy Richards of Allen, Richards & Pace, filed a Notice of Appeal in the Second Judicial District Court for Weber County appealing the court’s so-called “gang injunction” to the Utah Supreme Court. The injunction purportedly applies to the “Ogden Trece” gang as an entity, and covers virtually the entire city of Ogden. The injunction prohibits more than three hundred of its “alleged” members from a wide range of constitutionally protected conduct, including: associating with other alleged members (including family, friends, and co-workers), engaging in peaceful protests in public places, traveling together to vote, and even appearing in court together to challenge the injunction. The injunction also imposes a perpetual 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on hundreds of individuals that apparently applies for the rest of their lives, as well as permanently prohibiting them from possessing legal firearms, drinking or merely being in the presence of alcohol (on both public and private property), and engaging in any conduct that police, in their unfettered discretion, consider “annoying.” These prohibitions apply to anyone that the police…
On September 11, 2012, The ACLU of Utah filed a complaint on behalf of the Main Street Church of Brigham City challenging Brigham City’s “Free Speech Zone Ordinance.” The suit alleges that on its face, the ordinance violates the Utah and United States Constitutions because it requires a permit for almost any conceivable form of public expression and imposes civil and criminal penalties for failing to comply. On September 13, Brigham City has agreed not to enforce their “Free Speech Zone Ordinance” that was challenged in Federal Court days ago by the ACLU of Utah. Although, this agreement does not suspend the lawsuit filed against Brigham City. Main Street Church and the ACLU of Utah have not conceded that any past enforcement of the ordinance was constitutional. They also continue to contend that the ordinance is unconstitutional on its face and that it should be completely struck down by the court. On January 24, 2013, Brigham City and Main Street Church of Brigham City settled the suit after the city repealed the ordinance. PRESS RELASE: Brigham City "Free Speech Zone" Ordinance Lawsuit Settled After City Repeals Ordinance >> (2/11/13) PRESS RELASE: Brigham City Suspends Enforcement of Free Speech Ordinance: Free Speech For All…
The ACLU of Utah filed a lawsuit against the Davis School District after elementary schools in the district were instructed to remove a children’s book about a family with same-sex parents from library shelves. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a mother whose children attend one of the schools where the book was restricted. On January 11, 2013, Davis School District sent a letter to it's librarians instructing them to return "In Our Mothers House" to the library shelves and not restrict access to the book unless specifically instructed by a child's parents. On January 31, 2013, the District agreed to to never again remove the book based solely on its content settling the lawsuit.
Participatory Democracy - On July 20, 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, along with cooperating attorneys David C. Reymann and Chad R. Derum, filed an amicus curiae brief to the Utah Supreme Court in the case of Utahns for Ethical Government v. Clerks for All Counties in the State of Utah. In its brief, the ACLU of Utah argued that a ban on counting electronic signatures in the initiative process violates the Utah Constitution. On December 14, 2002, the Court issued a decision dismissing the case on procedural grounds without reviewing the constitutional issues.
ACLU of Utah Settles Claim Of Man Stopped And Cited For "Flipping The Bird" At Orem Police Officer - The ACLU of Utah has successfully settled a freedom of expression case in Orem City. On June 25, 2010, Seth Dame "flipped the bird" at an Orem City police officer who was driving by. The officer then stopped the car Seth was riding in and questioned Seth and the others in his car for about 20 minutes. The officer then issued a disorderly conduct citation against Seth for "flipping the bird" at him. Orem City later declined to prosecute the citation. After hearing from Seth, the ACLU of Utah contacted Orem City to inform them that the officer had violated Seth's rights under the First and Fourth Amendments. The ACLU of Utah also conducted an investigation into the Orem Police Department's practices in issuing disorderly conduct citations.
People cannot be prosecuted for posting content constitutionally protected for adults on generally-accessible websites, and are not required by law to label such content that they do post, according to a Court Ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson on May 17, 2012. Judge Benson’s order was issued in a lawsuit challenging a Utah law that threatened the free speech rights of online content providers and Internet users. Plaintiffs included a Utah artist; trade associations representing booksellers, publishers, graphic and comic books, and librarians; and the ACLU of Utah. In 2005, the Utah legislature extended to electronic communications its existing law regulating the distribution of “harmful to minors” content—that is, speech that adults have a First Amendment right to receive but that minors do not. Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit that year, arguing that the broadly worded Utah law violates the First Amendment by prohibiting lawful adult-to-adult communications on the Internet simply because a webpage or blog may be seen by a minor, while also compelling online speakers to label or rate such content. Similar overbroad statutes in other states have been held unconstitutional, or have been limited by the courts in a manner similar to the judgment entered in this case.…
Criminal Justice, Indigent Defense - On December 13, 2010, the ACLU of Utah entered its formal appearance as co-counsel along with lead counsel John Bogart of Telos VG., representing the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (UACDL) challenging Salt Lake County's practice of charging unlimited fees to criminal defendants seeking discovery materials (information on which charges are based) in their pending cases. Prosecutors are ethically and constitutionally obliged to provide defendants with discovery materials as part of defendants’ rights to a fair trial.
Reproductive Rights, Indigent Defense - J.M.S., an indigent juvenile from a small rural Eastern Utah town, allegedly attempted to terminate her pregnancy in May of 2009, by paying someone to beat her. Based on the faulty argument that the method by which J.M.S. sought to terminate her pregnancy was not an allowable "abortion" "procedure" under then-existing Utah law, the State charged J.M.S. with Criminal Solicitation to Commit Murder.
Participatory Democracy - Representing two sponsors of a grassroots led referendum to repeal H.B. 477, "Government Records Amendments," the ACLU of Utah filed suit against Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell on March 25, 2011, for refusing to count e-signatures collected in support of that referendum. The law on which Lt. Gov. Bell relied, S.B. 165, "Election Law Amendments," contains a blanket ban on any e-signatures collected in support of any referenda or initiatives. The ACLU's lawsuit contended that SB 165 violates the state and federal constitutional rights of Utah voters.
Indigent Defense - Jacob Ethridge, who is indigent, faces capital murder charges stemming from the 2008 deaths of two women. Weber County, which opted out of the statewide Indigent Capital Defense Trust Fund (which provides funds to all participating counties for the defense of capital cases), sought to replace Mr. Ethridge’s court-appointed attorneys with two new lawyers who have general service public defender contracts with Weber County with no experience in capital cases.
First Amendment, Due Process - On September 9, 2010, the ACLU of Utah filed a motion seeking to submit an amicus curiae brief in a Utah State 2nd District Court case involving a Weber County lawsuit requesting an injunction against the “Ogden Trece” gang that prohibited, among other things, alleged members from gathering within a significant portion of Ogden city limits.