You may find all of the resolved cases in specific issue fields by visiting our Utah Issues pages
Commercial Speech and Free Expression - In November 2002, commercial speech advocate and Salt Lake City resident B. L. Brereton filed the latest in a series of lawsuits seeking to do away with an unconstitutional city ordinance prohibiting the posting of "For Sale" signs on private vehicles. After three lawsuits (see B.L. Brereton v. Taylorsville City Corporation, B. L. Brereton v. Holladay City Corporation, and Mobile Media On the Go v. Salt Lake City Corporation), Brereton agreed to give Utah cities and counties until September 1, 2002 to repeal the ordinance.
Commercial Speech, Free Expression - On May 31, 2002, commercial speech enthusiast and Salt Lake City resident B. L. Brereton filed the latest lawsuit in the ongoing quest to do away with an unconstitutional city ordinance prohibiting the posting of “For Sale” signs on private vehicles (see Mobile Media On the Go v. Salt Lake City Corporation and B. L. Brereton v. Holladay City Corporation). The case stemmed from several complaints from Taylorsville residents, including one man who received a citation when his car was parked at work because his employer didn't have a license to sell used cars.
Commercial Speech and Free Expression - After several individuals called to complain that they had received citations for posting "For Sale" signs on their vehicles, we became aware of an ordinance that seems to be on the books in just about every city in Utah. Those cited were not accused of any other moving or parking violations. In one instance, the car was legally parked at a downtown Salt Lake City meter, and in another, the car was parked on a private lot in West Valley City. In both cases, the car owners were cited for violating an ordinance prohibiting individuals from parking or driving a vehicle for the "principal purpose of" displaying such vehicle for sale "or displaying advertising."
Commercial Speech and Free Expression - On May 16, 2002, Holladay became the second city in Utah to repeal an ordinance making it illegal to “park or operate a vehicle upon any roadway for the principal purpose of … displaying such a vehicle for sale … or displaying advertising.” The Holladay City Council chose to get rid of the unconstitutional law after the ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorney Brian Barnard filed a lawsuit on behalf of Salt Lake City resident B. L. Brereton, claiming that the Holladay ordinance violated First Amendment rights to commercial speech on public streets and was unconstitutionally vague because it lacked “written polices, rules or regulations for determining when a vehicle is being operated for the ‘principal purpose’ of displaying advertising.”
Privacy and Technology - In a ruling issued March 15, 2002 in Salt Lake City v. Keith Roberts, the Utah Supreme Court rejected Salt Lake City’s attempt to expand police investigatory powers in ways that would have severely infringed upon personal privacy. The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah had filed an amicus curiae brief in support of appealer Keith Roberts. At issue in the case was the interpretation of Salt Lake City laws regulating public lewdness.
Free Expression and Religion & Belief - In 1996, after years of being arbitrarily excluded from the Utah State Fair because fair patrons complained about the content of their religious message, Kurt and Cindy Van Gorden were allowed to set up a booth to display the religious books they publish. Unbeknownst to them, however, their contract contained restrictions not imposed on other vendors. Fair officials then used those restrictions as a pretext for shutting down the Van Gordens when fair patrons once again objected to their message.
Open and Public Meetings, Participatory Democracy - On October 15, 2001, the Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission held two "emergency" meetings by telephone to revise a proposed rule targeting alcohol advertising that depicts religious figures, symbols, or themes. The secret meetings came as a shock to members of the press and public who had been following the reworking of Utah’s alcohol advertising laws. Many argued that because of the controversial nature of the commission’s business, it was especially important that board members conduct the people’s business openly and with fair and adequate notice, rather than shield their actions from public input and scrutiny.
Right to Protest, Free Expression, and Equal Protection - During their 2001 session, the legislature passed House Bill 322 Domestic Terrorism of Commercial Enterprises. Targeted at animal rights activists, HB 322 mandated enhanced penalties for "any criminal offense with the intent to halt, impede, obstruct, or interfere with the lawful operation of an animal enterprise or to damage, take or cause the loss of any property owned by, used by, or in the possession of a lawful animal enterprise," a designation that included, but was not limited to, farms, ranches, rodeos, and research facilities.
Open Records, Participatory Democracy - For over two years, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah met with representatives from the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command (UOPSC) in an effort to ensure that during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, peaceful protesters have meaningful areas in which they can voice their opinions, and that our regular public forums remain open to free speech activities. Despite the fact that UOPSC joined the Salt Lake Organizing Committee at several public events to discuss its activities, our organization had not been given any plans for accommodating lawful protest.
Unlawful Search, Police Practices - 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, Foote was stopped by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper on pretextual grounds. Based upon Foote’s speech pattern and a green tint on her tongue, the trooper concluded she was driving under the influence of drugs. She was detained, arrested, and later strip-searched.
Equal Protection, Free Expression, and First Amendment Rights to Free Speech and Redress of Grievances - On November 7, 2000, Utah voters approved Initiative A, "English as the Official Language of Utah." Stating that English is the sole language of government, the law provides for several exceptions, allowing languages other than English, for example, when required by law, for public health and safety, and in public education.
Racial Justice and Police Practices - In May 1999, Mani Kang, a young man of Indian Sikh descent, was planning to drive through Southern Utah. Just coming from a visit with friends and relatives in California, Kang, like many other tourists, was interested in photographing some of Southern Utah’s natural sites before returning to his home in Arkansas. Shortly after entering Utah, however, Kang’s plans changed when he noticed a Utah Highway Patrol cruiser coming toward him. He was surprised when the trooper turned his car around and began following him, as he had not been speeding, had been observing all other traffic laws, and knew that his license plate and registration stickers were current. As the trooper continued to follow him, Kang became uneasy, and his discomfort was only exacerbated by the remote and isolated nature of the area.
East High Gay/Straight Alliance v. Board of Education and East High School PRISM Club v. Cynthia L. Seidel (1999)
Student Rights, Free Expression, LGBTQ Equality - On October 6, 2000, the Salt Lake City School Board reversed the most extreme steps taken anywhere in the country against gay-supportive student clubs when it decided to change its policy and allow the clubs to meet at school. This decision ended nearly five years of controversy as well as two ACLU of Utah lawsuits brought on behalf of students who had sought to form gay-supportive student clubs at East High School, and it finally gave students access, on a non-discriminatory basis, to important non-curricular clubs that had been banned since 1996.
Ex Post Facto, Due Process, Prison/Jails, Criminal Justice - On August 29, 2000, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a crushing blow to due process and ex post facto rights for those convicted of sexual offenses in Utah. The ruling resulted from a 1998 state law requiring the Department of Corrections (DOC) to make public its registry of persons convicted of certain sex offenses. Unlike public notification laws in other states, Utah’s law did not require any sort of assessment to determine individuals’ risks of re-offending before publicizing their names and addresses.
Equal Protection and LGBTQ Equality - In January 1999, the board of directors of the state Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) voted 7-2 to approve a policy restricting state adoptions. Declaring that all adults in an adoptive home must be related by blood, adoption, or legal marriage, the policy effectively prohibits all gay, lesbian, and unmarried heterosexual couples from adopting children in state custody. In response, the ACLU of Utah, along with nineteen other organizations and individuals, submitted written statements opposing the policy, noting that it unnecessarily and arbitrarily eliminates good adoptive homes, and is grounded in an irrational fear and prejudice towards same-sex and unmarried couples.
Open and Public Meetings, Participatory Democracy - In September 1998, the Utah Wildlife Board issued a press release and held a press conference to announce its unanimous support for Proposition 5, the successful ballot proposition that amended the Utah Constitution to require any initiative relating to the taking of wildlife to pass by a two-thirds super majority vote. As a state agency, the Wildlife Board must abide by Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act. The board’s endorsement, therefore, came as a surprise to groups opposing the proposition, as well as to the media, since it had never decided to endorse Proposition 5 in any public meeting.
Unlawful Search, Police Practices - In March 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 Skultin to exit the vehicle and then interrogated him about everything from his destination to his past criminal record. He gave Skultin a field sobriety test and continued his interrogation.
Governmental Accountability and Participatory Democracy - Craig Axford v. Salt Lake City Corporation was our second lawsuit challenging Salt Lake City’s decision to sell a downtown block of Main Street to the LDS Church. While our first lawsuit, First Unitarian Church v. Salt Lake City Corporation, focuses on the significant constitutional problems associated with the sale, Craig Axford v. Salt Lake City Corporation examined the city ordinance that authorized the sale.
Free Expression, Participatory Democracy - In fall 1998, John Slevin and John Guido sought to circulate petitions at the Utah State Fair in Salt Lake City. Fair officials charged Slevin with criminal trespassing and demanded that the petitioners purchase space at the fair for a cost of $350 to $400, thus creating a situation in which the right to petition the government depends upon one’s ability to pay a substantial registration fee.
Age Discrimination - For the first time in the ACLU of Utah’s history, the Utah Supreme Court requested that our organization file an amicus curiae brief in a case before the Court. At issue in the case was whether Utah employers with fewer than fifteen employees are free to discriminate against their employees on the basis of age. Like its federal counterpart, the Utah Anti-Discrimination Act exempts businesses that employ fewer than fifteen people from its regulatory scheme.