You may find all of the resolved cases in specific issue fields by visiting our Utah Issues pages
LGBT Equality - In May 2001, a group of Utah County citizens asked the Utah Supreme Court to reverse a Utah district court decision dismissing their case against Nebo School District teacher Wendy Weaver. Weaver, who is a long-time teacher at Spanish Fork High School, received national attention when she successfully sued the Nebo County School District for requiring her to sign a gag order that prohibited her from discussing her sexual orientation in or outside of the classroom. Because Weaver had the courage to stand up to such blatant discrimination, a group of Utah County citizens filed a lawsuit in December 1997 seeking to have her banned from teaching altogether, and in 1998, the ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorney Rick Van Wagoner defended her from its groundless claims.
Open and Public Meetings, Participatory Democracy - Rick Curtis is a member of FOCUS, an organization comprised of divorced parents who are interested in policies that affect Utah’s child support and custody laws. In an effort to be active participants in the policy-making process, Curtis and other FOCUS members regularly attend the monthly public meetings of the Utah State Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee. In the past, he and other FOCUS members have videotaped these meetings so that those who were unable to attend have an accurate account of the proceedings, and to allow those who were there to more meaningfully participate in future meetings by developing appropriate responses to the committee’s proposals.
Indigent Defense - On July 10, 2002, the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) petitioned the Juvenile Court to substantiate its investigative findings, which asserted that Paul Johnson had abused his children as defined by the Utah Code. This charge is a Class B misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to six months imprisonment and possible termination of parental rights.
Free Expression - In May 2000, Beaver County deputies seized Ian Lake’s computer, arrested the 16-year-old Milford High School student, and for seven days, incarcerated him in the Iron County Youth Detention Center. His crime? An Internet web site that he created at home and without the use of school resources that included parodic statements about classmates, teachers, and the Milford High School principal.
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.