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Legal Advocacy

The ACLU of Utah seeks to address civil liberties problems without having to rely on litigation. Below are letters we have written on a variety of issues in which we attempted to resolve reported grievances outside of the courtroom.

Media Advisory: ACLU of Utah Statement on COVID-19 in Utah Jails

20 May 2021 Published in Legal Advocacy
May 20, 2021 | As we stated in our open letter on April 27, 2021, there have been significant discrepancies in COVID-19 vaccine access for individuals incarcerated in Utah county jails. The ACLU of Utah has contacted every local health department in the state and many of the county jails regarding COVID-19 vaccine access. While some counties, such as Davis and San Juan, were able to administer vaccines to the majority of the individuals in their custody at an early stage, there have been serious outliers. Currently, the Weber-Morgan Health Department has not provided the Weber County Jail with any vaccines. The Weber County Jail was supposed to receive vaccines from the health department in April 2021. Weber County Jail officials have taken steps to secure vaccines for some of the jail’s population from other medical providers, and we commend their efforts.

Media Advisory: ACLU of Utah Request for Universal COVID-19 Vaccine Access in Utah Jails and Prisons

27 April 2021 Published in Legal Advocacy
As Utah continues its efforts to defend against COVID-19, including to vaccinate as many people against it as possible, state and local governments must commit to focused efforts within historically underserved and vulnerable populations. It is especially critical that vaccination efforts include individuals being held in county jails and state prisons. For numerous reasons, state and county officials must provide access to the COVID-19 vaccine to every incarcerated person in the state. 

Utah State Bar Urged To Change Bar Exam Policies For Breastfeeding Mothers

20 September 2016 Published in Legal Advocacy
During the summer of 2015 the ACLU of Utah became aware of the Utah State Bar policies that make it difficult for breast feeding mothers to take the state Bar Exam.

GRAMA request for release of video footage of Abdi Mohamed shooting by SLCPD

12 May 2016 Published in Legal Advocacy
On May 12, 2016, The ACLU of Utah and First Amendment attorney David Reymann of Parr Brown Gee & Loveless submitted an official request that video footage of the shooting of Abdi Mohamed by the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) be released to the public under Utah’s Government Records Access & Management Act (GRAMA). In mid-June, 2016, after several weeks of discussion with the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office to clarify aspects of our information request, the ACLU of Utah received an official notification that some, but not all, of the information requested would be provided under GRAMA. You can read more here about what information was released at that time. Most pertinently, officer body camera footage of the shooting incident was not released, nor was footage from security cameras in the area. On July 7, 2016, we filed our official appeal regarding the information that was not made public. The ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorney David Reymann of Parr Brown Gee & Loveless maintain our stance that all information about this critical incident, which has generated strong public interest and concern, should be released as requested.

Questions and Answers Regarding ACLU Letter to Salt Lake City Council About Days of 47 Parade

11 June 2014 Published in Legal Advocacy
We’ve been hearing questions about the letter we wrote last week to the Salt Lake City Council about the City Council’s intent to write a letter to the Days of ’47 Parade organizers. 

Days of '47 Parade

02 June 2014 Published in Legal Advocacy
ACLU of Utah responds to news that Salt Lake City Council may send an official letter to the Days of '47 organizers re parade admissions.

Marriage Equality

08 January 2014 Published in Legal Advocacy
On January 8, 2014, the ACLU of Utah sent Attorney General Sean Reyes a letter explaining the reasons that the over 1,000 marriages of same sex couples performed in Utah are valid and enforceable and must be recognized by the state and federal governments.  

Utah: Only State in Nation to Enforce English-Only Policy in Prisons? Thanks to the ACLU of Utah, Not Anymore

15 July 2013 Published in Legal Advocacy
Utah, formerly the only state to enforce English-only policies in prisons for inmates and their visitors, no longer stands out as a bastion of bad policy. We are thrilled to report to our members and supporters that Rollin Cook, Executive Director of Utah State Corrections, withdrew the decades-old English-only policy after we informed him that the policy violated prisoners’ Constitutional rights, and that the policy was outdated and poorly tailored to guarantee the safety of inmates, their visitors, and staff.

ACLU of Utah Helps Launch Free Deferred Action Workshops for Childhood Arrivals

06 August 2012 Published in Legal Advocacy
The Utah Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), in collaboration with other public interest groups, is sponsoring a series of free workshops throughout Utah to help those eligible for relief from deportation under the recently announced deferred action program. Supporting partners include the ACLU of Utah, Catholic Community Services, Holy Cross Ministries, the Mexican Consulate, SLC Dream Team and Mestizo Arts and Activism.

ACLU Seeks Details On Automatic License Plate Readers In Massive Nationwide Request

30 July 2012 Published in Legal Advocacy
American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in 35 states, including Utah, sent requests today to local police departments and state agencies that demand information on how they use automatic license plate readers (ALPR) to track and record Americans’ movements. In addition, the ACLU’s national office filed federal Freedom of Information Act requests with the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Transportation to learn how the federal government funds ALPR expansion nationwide and uses the technology itself.

ACLU of Utah Urges Utah State Board Of Education To Protect Privacy Of Students Taking Military Entrance Exam

19 July 2012 Published in Legal Advocacy
Yesterday, the ACLU of Utah sent a letter to State Superintendent of schools Larry Shumway raising grave concerns about the privacy implications of Utah public high schools’ use of the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery test, also known as the ASVAB. The ASVAB, promoted as a voluntary “Career Exploration Program,” is a recruiting tool used by the U.S. military. According to the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, in the 2009-10 school year, 8,365 Utah high school students took the ASVAB. The national group estimates that about 90% of those students’ results and information were provided to the U.S. military without the consent of their parents. Parental consent was not sought because schools, not students or parents, select the level of privacy afforded to ASVAB testing information.

Salt Lake City Overreacts By Shutting Down Occupy SLC Encampment

16 November 2011 Published in Legal Advocacy
  On Saturday, November 12, Salt Lake City Police joined by Salt Lake County Sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies, forcibly evicted over 100 people from their 38 day encampment at Pioneer Park. The eviction followed the tragic death of a homeless camper in his tent whose body was discovered on Friday, November 11. The ACLU of Utah had been working closely with both Salt Lake City and the Occupy movement to ensure that the 1st Amendment rights of the protestors were protected, and believes that the City had alternative means of addressing its concerns. While recognizing the city's responsibility to respond to health and safety concerns, we were disheartened by the city's unnecessary crackdown onthe Occupiers whose overnight encampment was a fundamental aspect of its expressive message. In a letter to Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, the ACLU of Utah expressed disappointment in the City's actions and requested a meeting to discuss the event and how to allow meaningful avenues for SLC Occupiers to continue their campaign. Last night, the ACLU joined occupiers at the City Council to further express its concerns and its hope that Salt Lake City will once again promote First Amendment activity instead…

ACLU Of Utah Responds To News Reports That Haka Dancers Were Pepper Sprayed And Struck With Batons At Roosevelt High School Football Game

24 October 2011 Published in Legal Advocacy
The ACLU of Utah called upon the Duchesne County Attorney to conduct an independent investigation into a recent claim of excessive force by the Roosevelt Police Department (RPD). This claim arose from an interaction between the RPD and a group of football fans, who were performing a Polynesian victory dance known as the “Haka,” in the stands during an October 20 game between Roosevelt and Uintah High Schools.  

ACLU of Utah Asks School Superintendents to Confirm that LGBT Students Will Not be Excluded from School Dances

11 August 2011 Published in Legal Advocacy
Recently, the ACLU of Utah received information that a student was asked to leave her school’s homecoming dance because she was there with a female date. This request clearly violated the constitutional rights of the student and her date, in particular the right to free expression and free association guaranteed by the First Amendment, as well as Constitution’s promise of Equal Protection.

ACLU of Utah Seeks Details on Government Cell Phone Tracking

03 August 2011 Published in Legal Advocacy
Today the ACLU of Utah sent GRAMA requests to six Utah law enforcement agencies seeking information showing when, why, and how law enforcement is using cell phone location data to track Americans. The ACLU of Utah’s requests are part of a massive effort by 34 ACLU affiliates nationwide to collect information from more than 379 state and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to strip away the secrecy that has surrounded law enforcement’s use of cell phone tracking capabilities.

"I [HEART] BOOBIES": Under Pressure, Granite School District Lifts Ban On Breast Cancer Awareness Bracelets

21 December 2010 Published in Legal Advocacy
The ACLU of Utah sent a letter last month challenging the Granite School District's ban on breast cancer awareness bracelets containing the slogan "I [heart] boobies."  Deeming the bracelets "not appropriate," at least one high school in the District had instructed teachers that the bracelets were banned and could be confiscated.  Following receipt of the ACLU's letter, and in recognition of the students' First Amendment right to engage in political speech, the District lifted the ban the very next morning.  

Weber County Gang Injunction Raises Constitutional Concerns

30 August 2010 Published in Legal Advocacy
A Weber County injunction against a gang known as Ogden Trece would prohibit all alleged gang members, known and unknown, from gathering in a significant portion of Ogden city limits. An ex parte temporary restraining order was issued by the 2nd District Court on August 20th. The court has scheduled a hearing tomorrow on Weber county's request to make the injunction permanent.

Attorney General Shurtleff Urged to Reject Using Information from "the list" in Criminal Prosecutions

26 August 2010 Published in Legal Advocacy
Yesterday the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah (ACLU of Utah) joined with ten other Utah civil rights organizations and individuals in urging Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to reject using in any criminal investigation information contained in the now-infamous “list” of 1,300 Utah residents who are allegedly in the country unlawfully.

Proposed Sale of Manti Street Raises Significant First Amendment Concerns

24 August 2010 Published in Legal Advocacy
After receiving numerous complaints regarding the proposed sale of a Manti city street to the LDS Church, the ACLU of Utah sent a letter on August 18 to the Manti City Council, which was set to make a decision at their meeting that night. The street has traditionally been used as a public thoroughfare and public forum for people of all religious and political persuasions, particularly during the annual week-long Mormon Miracle Pageant held in Manti. The ACLU letter discussed the important First Amendment rights that would be threatened if the street were to be sold to a private entity, and the lack of public knowledge or involvement prior to the city council meeting.

Revised Proposed Salt Lake City Anti-Panhandling Ordinance Still Threatens First Amendment Rights

10 August 2010 Published in Legal Advocacy
The ACLU of Utah again submitted comments to Salt Lake City regarding the city's revised proposed anti-panhandling ordinance. The ACLU of Utah is concerned that this measure will compromise rights and prove ineffective.

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