You may find all of the resolved cases in specific issue fields by visiting our Utah Issues pages
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.
Participatory Democracy - On March 18, 2010, Mr. Farley Anderson, an independent candidate for governor, presented to the Lieutenant Governor a nominating petition signed by over 1,000 Utah voters. This petition signaled a key step in Utah’s statutory ballot access process for providing unaffiliated candidates access to office. Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell rejected Mr. Anderson’s petition because a small portion of the signatures were “e-signatures,” electronic collected through a secure website.
Free Expression - During its 2004 general session, the Utah State Legislature passed H.B. 239, “Sexually Explicit Business and Escort Service Tax,” which imposes a substantial tax on businesses that provide escort services or feature “any nude or partially denuded individual.” The ACLU of Utah and others lobbied against the bill, warning that legislators’ unsupported assertions that there is a connection between the types of businesses targeted by the bill and sex crimes were not enough to provide a compelling state interest for such a punitive tax scheme. Absent such an interest, the bill’s selective taxation is, in effect, a content-based restriction on constitutionally protected expression, and it is impermissible under the First Amendment.
Employment Discrimination, LGBTQ Equality, Equal Protection - In February 2002, Krystal Etsitty was fired from the Utah Transit Authority where she had worked as a bus driver for several months. The termination came shortly after she revealed to her employers that she is transsexual, and although her employers had received no complaints about her, they informed her that she was being fired because they could not determine which restroom she should use. Etsitty, who identifies and lives as a woman, has legally changed her name from Michael to Krystal and has changed her Utah driver’s license designation from male to female. UTA told her she would be eligible for rehire only after undergoing sex reassignment surgery.
Excessive Force - On December 29, 1998, David Walker was shot four times by law enforcement in the driveway of his American Fork family home where he lived with his parents. His parents witnessed the shooting, as did his two sisters and his brother-in-law who lived next door on the same lot. Law enforcement was looking for David because his family had reported the car he was driving as stolen. His family reported his car as stolen because they knew David was suicidal, and were told that if the vehicle were reported stolen, law enforcement could assist in locating David.
Fourth Amendment - In 1982, ACLU cooperating attorneys Bob Anderson, Rocky Anderson, and Wayne McCormack filed an action against the Salt Lake County Jail for Fourth Amendment violations. In the original case, law enforcement officers pulled over Judith Regan, an out-of-state reporter, for a traffic violation. Regan refused to sign the ticket because it required a statement that she would appear in court within a specific time frame, and she knew she would no longer be in Salt Lake City at that time. She was then handcuffed and eventually strip searched by county law enforcement, in violation of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
LGBTQ Equality - On September 21, 2005, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson signed an executive order to extend health and other employment benefits to city employees' same-sex and heterosexual domestic partners. Less than a week later, the governing body of the agency that administers health insurance for state and local government employees filed a petition with the state court requesting clarification about whether Utah law prohibits Salt Lake City from offering health insurance benefits to domestic partners.
Free Speech and Police Practices - On August 20, 2005, Utah County law enforcement officers raided and shut down an outdoor electronic music concert taking place on a private ranch in Spanish Fork Canyon. Police did not have warrants to enter the property or to search concertgoers, and Utah County Sheriff James Tracy authorized and implemented the raid based largely on the presumption that the concert would continue beyond the twelve hours for which the promoters had secured the necessary permits.
Free Speech and Separation of Church and State - In June 2003, the Salt Lake City Council set in motion a second lawsuit involving the public’s First Amendment rights on the Main Street Plaza when it voted 6-0 to swap the plaza’s public easement for land owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the west side of town and raise funds to create a new community center.
Right to Anonymous Free Expression - On August 17, 2005, the ACLU of Utah and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the First Amendment right to speak anonymously on issues of public concern. The brief was in regards to a U.S. District Court case that arose, in part, out of anonymous postings from a Yahoo group and several weblogs.
Free Expression, Due Process, Prisons/Jails - John Morris Kinter was a federal pre-trial detainee in the Cache County Jail. In January 2005, he ordered and paid for a legal dictionary that was mailed to him at the jail. When the book arrived that month, officials informed him that according to jail policy, the dictionary now belonged to the Cache County Jail and would remain at that facility after Kinter’s release or transfer.
Unreasonable Search and Seizure and Police Practices - In May 2003, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell ruled that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches or seizures by law enforcement officers did not apply to undocumented immigrants who have previously been deported because of a felony charge. This unprecedented ruling was based on a case involving Jorge Esparza-Mendoza, a Mexican national who was prosecuted in 2002 for illegally reentering the United States.
Free Expression - On September 14, 2004, the ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorney Brian Barnard filed a complaint and temporary restraining order in Federal District Court challenging as unconstitutional a Draper City ordinance that impermissibly placed durational time limits on political campaign signs according to the content of the signs. In part, the ordinance prohibited display of many candidates’ signs on private property more than thirty days prior to the general election.
Due Process, Prisons/Jails, Indigent Defense - In 2002, officials at the Department of Corrections and the Salt Lake County Metro Jail announced that in an effort to comply with a recent legislative mandate, they would begin collecting DNA samples from all inmates who had pled guilty to or been convicted of a felony charge or a class A burglary offense. Additionally, they hoped to pay for this operation by charging inmates a mandatory $75 processing fee with no exception for those who were unable to pay.
Religion and Belief, Prisons/Jails - For twelve days in the fall of 2002, Nathan Clark was incarcerated in the Iron County Jail. As a devotee of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Clark had strict dietary requirements, which jail officials refused to provide to him even after he submitted a written request for an accommodation.