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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

Articles, Resources, and Position Papers

Following is a partial list of ACLU of Utah articles, resources and position papers. Additional materials can be found on our issue pages.

Election Day Registration

08 July 2016 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
You may be able to register AND vote on Election Day! If you live in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Kane, Cache, Millard, San Juan, or Sanpete County, YOU CAN STILL VOTE on November 8 even if you didn’t register in advance.

VICTORY! Salt Lake City Police and School District Settle Suit Over “Gang Operation” By Agreeing To Changes

20 April 2016 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2016 Spring Newsletter >> The Salt Lake City Police Department and the Salt Lake City School District have agreed to make broad and meaningful changes in how they treat students of color and engage in school disciplinary issues under the settlement with the ACLU of Utah and the ACLU Racial Justice Project announced on February 26, 2016.  The agreements stem from a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of students at West High School who were caught up in a late 2010 “gang operation” carried out by various local police departments on school grounds during the school day.  During the “gang operation,” all of the students detained and documented were of Latino, African-American, or Pacific Island descent, even though students of color comprised just half the student body. They were rounded up, questioned, searched, and photographed holding signs describing alleged gang affiliation.  Their information was then documented and entered into a police database, potentially subjecting them to future unwarranted police scrutiny.  As part of settlement, the city and school district have pledged that:  Salt Lake City police will not conduct any operations like the 2010 gang enforcement operation. Officers…

San Juan County Voting System Challenged

20 April 2016 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2016 Spring Newsletter >> On February 25, the ACLU of Utah, as co-counsel with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, DLA Piper, LLP, and the ACLU Voting Rights Project, filed a federal lawsuit challenging San Juan County’s mail-only voting system on behalf of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and several individual plaintiffs.  The suit contends that a mail-only system adversely impacts Navajo voters. The case arises from the County’s decision in 2014 to close all polling places and switch to a mail-only voting system. The County is covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act and is required to provide all voting materials – including voting instructions and ballots – in both English and Navajo.  Because Navajo is an unwritten language, the suit contends that the County’s mail-only ballot system conflicts with the County’s Section 203 obligations. Moreover, the postal system in rural parts of San Juan County, where many Navajo voters reside, is unreliable and not accessible, making it difficult for many Navajo voters to receive and return their ballots on time under a mail-only electoral system. Although the County is approximately half white and half…

YES ON SIX: Sue's Story

18 April 2016 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist
While the state puts together an Indigent Defense Commission that will take at least a few years to take action, real people like Sue McAley are suffering NOW because of Utah's failing public defender system.

ACLU of Utah Executive Director to Retire in 2016

15 April 2016 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2016 Spring Newsletter >> Earlier this year Karen McCreary announced that she will retire in the summer of 2016. Since becoming the organization’s head in 2006, Karen has more than doubled the staff, overseen impressive fundraising growth, extended the ACLU of Utah’s presence statewide, built a vigorous legal program, and greatly expanded the ACLU of Utah’s influential participation at the Utah Legislature. Under Karen’s leadership, the ACLU of Utah championed a successful legal challenge to Utah’s Arizona-style anti-immigration law HB497, helped pass Utah’s LGBT non-discrimination act and successfully challenged governmental impediments to full marriage equality. The ACLU also played a critical role in Utah’s sweeping criminal justice reform efforts and built grassroots community coalitions to advocate for racial justice throughout the state  A search committee of current and previous Board members is accepting applications to fill the position. The next Executive Director will take over a healthy and dynamic organization that will continue to protect civil liberties and equality for all people living and visiting Utah. More information about the position and application process can be found on our website at www.acluutah.org. 

When Police Shoot Community Members: “Something Has To Change!”

15 April 2016 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2016 Spring Newsletter >> So far, 2016 has already seen several violent interactions between Utah law enforcement and the community. Two high-profile shootings  have occurred in Salt Lake City alone since January (among others that have attracted less attention statewide): Palema Lautaimi, a 28-year-old Polynesian man from the west side of Salt Lake City, and Abdi Mohamed, a 17-year-old Kenyan refugee who has lived in Utah since arriving as a child ten years ago. In Utah, as with elsewhere in the nation, shootings of community members by police have been subjected to increasing public scrutiny. The ACLU of Utah has closely tracked this phenomenon, as it is directly related to core civil liberties issues including police militarization, racial bias, transparency and accountability. Recently, we have become more closely engaged with family members of individuals shot by police and with on-the-ground community activists who share our concerns regarding law enforcement’s use of force.  Last summer, ACLU of Utah staff members began working with local activists and advocacy groups - including Cop Watch SLC, the United Front and Utahns for Peaceful Resolution - to make positive change at both the local and state levels.…

About the ACLU of Utah

30 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> The ACLU of Utah, chartered in 1958, operates through public education, legal advocacy, litigation, and lobbying at both the state and local levels to ensure the constitutional rights and freedoms of everyone living in or visiting Utah. Our work is based on those principals outlined in the Bill of Rights and our priorities include: Participatory Democracy; Racial Justice; Criminal Justice Reform; Immigration Reform; LGBTQ Equality; Women’s Rights;  Digital Security & Privacy; and Religious Liberty & Freedom of Belief. In addition, we continue our commitment to protect the First Amendment. Staff Karen McCreary, Executive Director Marina Baginsky Lowe, Legislative and Policy Counsel John Mejia, Legal Director  Leah Farrell, Staff Attorney Amy O’Connor, Development Director Anna Brower, Strategic Communications Manager Jessica Andrews, Coordinator of Administration and Finance Reinard Knutsen, Office Manager Rose Maizner, Development Consultant Board of Directors Dianna Cannon, Erin Castro, Heidi Chamorro, Chase Clyde, Gina Cornia, Forrest Crawford, Marian Edmonds-Allen, Russell Fericks,  Barry Gomberg, Danielle Hawkes, Nathan Hult, Bill Orchow, Roderic Land, Cathleen Power, David Reymann, Jill Sheinberg, Larry Stevens, Michael Weinholtz Legal Panel Jensie Anderson, Rusty Andrade,  Laura Kessler, Clemens Landau, Tom Mitchell, Kristina Ruedas, Karen Stam, Aaron Tarin, Mary Woodhead Interns and Volunteers  Ariana Barusch, Bronwen Dromey, Matt Grow, Chris Harelson, Olga Hernandez-Favela,…

ACLU Report Finds Unsatisfactory Public Complaint Process In Utah’s Law Enforcement Agencies

30 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> The ACLU of Utah recently issued a report analyzing how Utah law enforcement handles complaints from members of the public.  The report, “Opportunities for Trust Building: Overview and Recommendations for Law Enforcement’s Public Complaint Process,” was prompted by numerous individuals who reached out to the ACLU of Utah to express frustration with the complaint process involving law enforcement agencies around the state. To evaluate how well Utah law enforcement agencies handle complaints from the public, the ACLU of Utah conducted two studies. One was an in-depth telephone study of 12 law enforcement offices from across the state, and the second, was a more general written request to 106 agencies.  Unfortunately, we found some troubling trends in the way Utah law enforcement agencies handle citizen complaints. Our three main areas of concern were as follows: Utah agencies too often create conditions of inaccessibility, which discourages the public from complaining. Utah agencies marginalize some populations and restrict their ability to access the complaint process. Several Utah agencies provide internally inconsistent information about their public complaint processes.   We conclude that because of this lack of uniformity and failure to comply…

ACLU Action on Law Enforcement Abuse of Power

30 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> Activists with Utah Against Police Brutality gather at the Matheson Courthouse on November 29, 2014. Photo courtesy of SLUG Magazine and Megan Kennedy www.slugmag.com/photos/slc-to-ferguson-utah-against-police-brutality-rally-11-29 The ACLU of Utah strives for a state that affords dignity, autonomy and justice to all its residents. There are very few ways in which the state so overtly wields power over us than in the form of its law enforcement agents. In the words of our colleagues in Maryland, in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray, “Over time, the daily injustices, the repeated instances of police brutality, the unconstitutional treatment of poor and minority people – these patterns crush people’s souls.” To assume that such problems cannot and do not happen in our own state, would reveal a dangerous blindness to the reality faced by many of our fellow Utahns. Restraining police use of force and demanding accountability and reform for tactics that police use in our communities have been a central part of the ACLU of Utah’s work for many years. We’ve ramped up that work in the past year in response to the tragic and disappointing spate of fatal shootings…

Utah Court Overturns Petitioner’s Convictions for Violating Ogden “Gang Injunction”

30 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> In early June, the Second District Court of Utah filed an order vacating two misdemeanor convictions against Leland McCubbin for violating the so-called Ogden “Gang Injunction.” That injunction placed various restrictions on those served with it, including a curfew and a prohibition on being seen in public with other alleged gang members in Ogden. In October 2013, the Utah Supreme Court vacated the injunction due to improper service. Mr. McCubbin, represented by the ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorney Randall Richards of Richards Brown Law, later brought a petition under the state Post Conviction Remedies Act to expunge his record of his two misdemeanor convictions related to violations of that injunction. In a comprehensive ruling granting Mr. McCubbin’s petition, the Court held that the convictions should be vacated because the convictions were obtained in violation of Mr. McCubbin’s rights under the state and federal constitutions, and because the Utah Supreme Court announced a new rule that applied to Mr. McCubbin. “I am elated with the Court’s order,” said Mr. McCubbin. “Having these unfair convictions off my record is like a weight off my shoulders. Being wrongly subjected to…

Utah Federal Court Rules Same-Sex Mothers’ Parentage Rights Must Be Recognized

30 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> Plaintiffs Angie and Kami Roe (center) surrounded by ACLU staff and interns celebrate the court’s decision. On July 15, 2015, a Utah federal court ruled the State Office of Vital Records and Statistics must recognize a same-sex married couple as legal parents of their child under Utah’s assisted reproduction and parentage statutes.  In applying those laws, the Office was automatically recognizing husbands of women who conceive with donated sperm as the children’s parents. But rather than immediately recognize as parents female spouses whose spouses conceived in the same way, the Office was requiring them to go through the an expensive and time-consuming step-parent adoption process. The ACLU of Utah and the ACLU LGBT and HIV project brought a case challenging the office’s application of the laws on behalf of Angie and Kami Roe, parents of Lucy.  Applying its discriminatory policy, the Office denied this family a birth certificate listing Angie as Lucy’s parent.  The case was argued before U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson.  The court  ruled that the Office must apply Utah’s assisted reproduction and parentage statutes equally to same and different-sex spouses. “The court’s decision makes…

New Prison Could Reduce Use of Barbaric “Restrictive Housing”

30 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> The ACLU defines “solitary confinement” as isolation for at least 22 hours a day with, among other restrictions, extremely limited human contact, little to no natural light, and severe restrictions on participation in programming and therapeutic activities (including religious services). Correctional staff rarely – if ever – use the term “solitary confinement.” You’re more likely to hear “restricted housing” or “administrative segregation.” Whatever you call it, we use the practice regularly in Utah. Sadly, sometimes we put prisoners in these terrible conditions because our antiquated facilities at Utah State Prison (USP) prevent us from doing any better.  About 900 Utah state inmates – out of approximately 6,750 total statewide – are held in restricted housings. That’s more than 13%. Given that the international community increasingly considers use of solitary confinement to be a type of torture, and that studies since the 1930s have indicated seriously detrimental mental and emotional outcomes from its use, this number is alarming. Utah Department of Corrections (UDC) acknowledges that extensive use of restricted housing is not ideal. Inmates don’t do well when they are denied programming, visitation and outdoor privileges. To its credit,…

What Does a Failing Public Defenders System Sound Like?

29 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> Over the years, the ACLU of Utah has received many compelling complaints from Utahns who feel frustrated, confused, hurt, insulted and abandoned after trying to navigate the criminal justice system without the necessary resources and support. This is what it sounds like when our system of providing public defense is failing Utah residents: “I met my lawyer in the court room at my preliminary hearing, for about two minutes, after I waited in jail for two weeks. He advised me to waive my preliminary hearing. That’s it!  The next time we met, he told me they were offering a plea of one second-degree felony and one third-degree felony. He never asked me for my side of the story to provide me with a vigorous defense. He never took the time to have a heart-to-heart talk about everything that happened. I would think he would need the whole story, even to negotiate a decent plea bargain.” (Individual pled guilty  to aggravated assault and possession of a deadly weapon by a restricted person; currently incarcerated at Utah State Prison). “After being charged with two felonies (one second-degree and one third-degree),…

With a Single Sentence, You Can Defend Freedom Now and Forever

29 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> Join The LEGACY CHALLENGE Lucy Roe, shown here at 5 months old, helped make history. Her parents, Angie and Kami Roe, were BOTH listed on her birth certificate after the ACLU of Utah and the national ACLU LGBT Project filed a lawsuit against the State Office of Vital Records and Statistics which originally refused to recognize both as legal parents of Lucy.  Helping Lucy is just one great reason why legacy giving is so important to protecting freedom for all!  And today, including a legacy gift in your planned giving can generate an IMMEDIATE CASH GIFT to the ACLU as well as leaving a legacy gift to those who come after us. Right now, by adding the ACLU to your will, you can leave a legacy of liberty for generations to come and defend our freedom today. Through the Legacy Challenge, simply including a gift in your future plans can qualify the ACLU to receive a 20% cash matching donation today from our generous challenge donor. For simple bequest language to include in your will and for information on other gifts that qualify for the Legacy Challenge, visit…

On The Hill: Looking Ahead - Body cameras, Good Landlord Program, Indigent Defense

29 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> The 2016 Legislative session is just around the corner, and the ACLU of Utah anticipates another fast-paced seven weeks on the Hill, safeguarding your civil liberties!  Criminal justice issues are likely to dominate our agenda, including legislative proposals dealing with police body cameras, housing for people transitioning out of the criminal justice system, and reforming Utah’s system of indigent defense, among others. Body cameras  Due to high profile police encounters across the nation, the interest in police body cameras has exploded.  This is true in Utah as well, as many law enforcement agencies are already using or exploring the use of on-body cameras.  Cameras have the potential to be a win-win, helping protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time helping protect police against false accusations of abuse.  But there are also serious privacy considerations that must be taken into account when drafting policies to govern the use of such cameras.  The ACLU of Utah worked with partners such as the Libertas Institute and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to draft a statewide policy for body cameras during the 2015 session.  Though that…

The ACLU of Utah Stands With Planned Parenthood!

29 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> Thousands of women and families trust and rely on Planned Parenthood of Utah for affordable, accessible, high-quality healthcare and education services, including contraception, cancer screenings, and STD testing and prevention. Call Gov. Herbert’s Office at (801) 538-1000 and let him know that you stand with Planned Parenthood. You can also sign an online petition at ppacutah.org/stand-with-planned-parenthood/  

Our Integrated Advocacy Approach Utilizes Legislation, Litigation, and Education to Positively Affect Change in Utah

29 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> It is a good time to be a member and supporter of the ACLU of Utah.  We have an impressive history, we are ushering in a multitude of successes today, and we are planning and strategizing to ensure civil liberties in Utah for the future.  In the past 5 years, we have grown our staff, we have grown our budget, and we have grown our impact through our integrated advocacy approach that utilizes legislation, litigation, and education to positively affect change in Utah.  One example of our integrated advocacy approach is the work we did in the past year to ensure that the state’s prescription database cannot be searched without a court ordered warrant (see summer newsletter “Utah Fire Fighters Victim of Fourth Amendment Violations”).  We first filed a legal brief in a case brought by a paramedic whose prescription records were searched without probable cause, then followed up with public education about the problem and finally helped ensure a legislative fix to ensure that this 4th Amendment violation will not be repeated.  Because the ACLU of Utah has been successful on many fronts, we have been in…

Activists Defeat Farmington’s Unconstitutional “Free Speech” Ordinance

29 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> On September 9, 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 alleges 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.  The Utah Animal Rights Coalition now plans to continue their public protests during Lagoon’s current season,…

YES ON SIX: Time to Deliver On 6th Amendment Promise “Legislative and Policy Solutions Need to Happen NOW”

29 September 2015 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2015 Fall Newsletter >> Karen McCreary, ACLU of Utah Executive Director, outlines the fundamentals of the YES ON SIX campaign at a press conference on August 27. Four years after the release of “Failing Gideon: Utah’s Flawed County-by-County System of Public Defense,” the ACLU of Utah launched “YES ON SIX,” an education and advocacy campaign to push for significant improvements to Utah’s failing county-by-country public defense system. At a press conference on August 27, we called for a legislative remedy to be proposed and passed during the 2016 Legislative Session, and made specific requests for that remedy. “The right to legal counsel, enshrined in the Sixth Amendment, is the keystone of our country’s understanding of justice,” said Karen McCreary, ACLU of Utah Executive Director. “It undergirds our concept of being a free people in contrast to countries that are totalitarian and repressive, where lawyers are not always independent of the government, and individuals can be imprisoned by an all-powerful state without recourse to justice.”  The YES ON SIX Campaign mobilizes community members to share their personal stories and experiences with legislators and policy leaders, through letter-writing and in-person meetings. YES ON…

Back To School: Rights Don’t Stop At The Classroom Door

The new school year is here! Young people not only learn about their constitutional rights in school, but they also see firsthand how those rights may be affected by the actions of school officials and others.