You may find all of the resolved cases in specific issue fields by visiting our Utah Issues pages
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.
Religion & Belief - After a successful career as a correctional officer, Charles Larson decided he wanted to help young people, so he went back to school and became a public school teacher. In his spare time, he pursued scholarly religious studies from his traditional Christian perspective. Shortly after publishing a scholarly exegesis of the Book of Abraham, considered by LDS Church faithful to be ancient scripture, Larson was terminated from his teaching position in the Provo School District, ostensibly as part of a reduction in force.
Police Practices - In December 1993, FBI Agent Samuel McPheters and BIA Agent Greg Littlewhiteman entered and searched the home of Rosanna Valdez in search of her adult son. Although he had not lived with her for over 10 years and the officers had no search warrant, the officers searched Valdez’s home not once, but twice, in an unsuccessful attempt to locate her son. In 1994, the ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorney Loren Weiss filed a complaint on behalf of Valdez arguing that during both searches, she was unreasonably seized (arrested) and subjected to an illegal custodial interrogation.
Privacy & Technology - After receiving a complaint from a local citizen, the Utah County Attorney and the Utah County Sheriff obtained a warrant allowing them to enter and search the Movie Buffs stores in Lehi and American Fork. During the course of the searches, the Sheriff’s department confiscated not only hundreds of videos they believed to be pornographic, but also lists of individuals who had rented those videos.
Free Expression and Participatory Democracy - In fall 1998, John Slevin and John Guido sought to circulate petitions at the Salt Lake County Fair in Murray. While County Fair officials originally granted permission to circulate the petitions, they then arbitrarily revoked their permission and had the plaintiffs arrested on criminal trespass charges. The criminal trespass charges were later dropped, and the ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorney Brian Barnard filed a civil rights lawsuit on the petitioners’ behalf. Rather than pursue pointless litigation over a clear civil rights violation, the County opted to settle.
Racial Justice, Participatory Democracy - For the better part of this century, Native Americans have been excluded from jury service in San Juan County, Utah. Few Native Americans appeared on jury lists, and it was not until the mid-1970’s that an Indian juror actually served on a trial jury, even though Native Americans constitute over 50% of that county’s population. This shameful situation was addressed in a 1993 lawsuit brought by Eric Swenson. The ACLU of Utah later joined Swenson in this lawsuit.
LGBTQ Equality and Free Expression - In November 1998, U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins ruled favorably on our case, Weaver v. Nebo School District. The ACLU of Utah filed the complaint in 1997 on behalf of Wendy Weaver, a long-term teacher at Spanish Fork High School in Utah County. The complaint argued that school officials had violated Weaver’s First Amendment rights when they made her sign a gag order prohibiting her from talking about her sexual orientation in or outside of the classroom.
Privacy & Technology, Equal Protection - In late 1994, Wallace Kim Allred was placed on leave of absence from his job at Solaray after he tested positive for cannabinoids in a random drug test. Allred immediately provided Solaray with documentation indicating that he was taking Marinol, a cannabinoid derivative, as prescribed by his physician, and that he was experiencing no side effects. Solaray demanded that Allred reveal why he was taking Marinol. When Allred admitted he was living with AIDS, the company told him he would not be allowed to have direct contact with their product and that he would have to turn over all his medical records to the company.
Police Practices, Prison/Jails - Stana Laughter and her 3-year-old son went to visit her husband at the Central Utah Correctional Facility. Her car was searched at the front gate and an officer searched Laughter’s purse and other belongings. Laughter then parked her car and walked to the building for her standard visitation. Then another officer told her he had a search warrant authorizing a full body search of her and her son. Her car and personal belongings were again searched with the aid of a dog, and Laughter was then accompanied to a hospital where an ER doctor conducted an intrusive body cavity search.
Prison/Jails - In May 1997, the ACLU of Utah and the Disability Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of Utah State Prison inmate NLS. NLS had a long and well-documented history of mental illness, including numerous suicide attempts and incidents of self-mutilation. During his incarceration at the Utah State Prison, NLS was taken off all medications intended to treat his mental illness and shackled with metal restraints to a stainless steel board in a spread-eagle position for over twelve weeks.
Jail Conditions - In 1996, inmates at the Utah County Jail were experiencing a variety of problems due to overcrowded conditions. After the ACLU of Utah filed a suit on their behalf, Judge J. Thomas Greene issued a 1997 consent decree in which Utah County agreed to ensure that the number of inmates does not exceed the legal limit.
Death Penalty - In late 1995, the ACLU of Utah filed Amicus Briefs regarding a 1974 Utah law which stated that a prison inmate could be charged with a capital offense if he or she committed an assault while incarcerated for a first degree felony. In a 1997 decision, the Utah Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.