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Moving Justice Forward For 60 Years!

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.

Students! Know Your Rights: A Guide For Utah High School Students

SKYRlrgIn school, young people not only learn about their constitutional rights, but they also see firsthand how those rights may be affected by the actions of others. The ACLU of Utah is dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of students and to helping students understand their rights in school.

The material provided on this website is for basic informational purposes only. It is not meant to be and should not be taken as legal advice, nor should you rely on this information instead of seeking the advice of an attorney. The legal issues surrounding civil rights and civil liberties are among the most complex in the law, and a person’s rights may vary from case to case depending on small and subtle details. Only a lawyer who has taken the time to become fully aware of the facts in a given case can provide you with sound legal advice.

If you feel your rights have been violated, please let us know the details by filling out a complaint form on our website.

National ACLU links for youth & students

A Guide For Utah High School Students

Other Utah Material

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ACLU on the Hill (Spring 2019 Liberty Reporter)

14 May 2019 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
Our team tracked 100+ bills during the 2019 Utah Legislative Session, while focusing on these nine ACLU of Utah priorities. Download this document (PDF) ...from the Spring 2019 Liberty Reporter #1. Protecting Digital PrivacyH.B. 57 Electronic Information or Data Privacy This landmark bill makes Utah the first state to add warrant protections for digital information stored by third parties like cell phone carriers and cloud-based servers. This means police need a warrant to search data stored on a remotely-located Google Drive or Dropbox account, just like they would for a computer in your home. This innovative law builds on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Carpenter v. U.S., an ACLU case which required warrants for location-based data. H.B. 57, however, goes further to protect personal data stored on third-party servers.  #2. Standing Firm on Reproductive FreedomH.B. 136 Abortion AmendmentsH.B. 166 Down Syndrome Nondiscrimination Abortion Act This year the Utah Legislature passed two anti-abortion bills. However, we are confident that neither bill will become law. To stop H.B. 136, we joined the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah to file a lawsuit on April 10 in federal district court to prevent the bill’s 18-week abortion ban from taking effect (see, “See…

Campaign Mode (Spring 2019 Liberty Reporter)

14 May 2019 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
We launched a dozen efforts to make it easier for Utahns to vote in 2018.Here are three examples of how we made a difference. (1) Eight days before the election, we learned that Utah was one of two states where Uber and Lyft weren’t offering discounted rides to the polls due to confusion about a state law against bribing people to vote. After we called the State Elections Office and a reporter at FOX13, a state attorney quickly declared that free rides to the polls were not illegal in Utah, resulting in new publicity about the availability of this helpful service. (2) As Utahns received their mail-in ballots, we launched a “No Stamp? No Problem” social media campaign to inform voters living in the 18 Utah counties without pre-paid return postage—including Utah and Weber counties—that the U.S. Postal Service would still deliver their unstamped ballots. By targeting younger voters who often don’t own or use stamps, our goal was to remove a crucial barrier to voting.  We received media attention and responses from across the state, with one Facebook post (see image at right) shared 143 times to reach 12,497 people.  (3) After conducting a phone survey of county clerks…

New Focus on Reentry Reform (Spring 2019 Liberty Reporter)

14 May 2019 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
If we want to reduce mass incarceration, we also need to fix probation and parole. The latest state corrections data indicates that mass incarceration is increasingly driven by people returning to prison for probation and parole violations, not for committing new crimes. With this trend in mind, Utah’s Campaign for Smart Justice will focus more attention in 2019 on reforming Utah’s probation and parole process.  In 2017, parole violations made up 51 percent of all admissions to prison in Utah, while probation violations accounted for another 25 percent of admissions—meaning that these community supervision violations accounted for three-fourths of all prison admissions. Many of these people return to prison for technical violations, which means that they broke a parole or probation rule—like missing a meeting or curfew—but they did not commit a new crime. Another study tracking groups of parolees showed that 46 percent of one cohort returned to prison within a year of release due to technical parole violations. To address these issues, the ACLU of Utah and community partners created an inmate handbook to help people in prison navigate the parole system once they are released. Everyone entering prison will receive a copy so they can better prepare for…

Voting for a Change (Spring 2019 Liberty Reporter)

14 May 2019 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
Strong voter turnout and better ballot access leads to historic election results in San Juan County. One of the ACLU’s unofficial mottos is “Vote like your rights depend on it.”  But what if you can’t exercise that right?  Last November’s midterm election was the first major vote in San Juan County since the ACLU of Utah reached a positive settlement with the county to provide in-person voter assistance and non-English translation services at polling places on the Navajo Nation. The settlement came after we sued the county in 2016 over its decision to switch to an exclusive vote-by-mail system and reduce in-person voting to only one location located far from many Native American communities. Now that the spotlight has shifted from the courtroom to the ballot box, the ACLU of Utah sent two staffers to San Juan County to ensure that the settlement provisions were being followed during the midterm election. After spending several days at multiple locations in the county, the ACLU’s impressions were generally positive. Turnout was high—a thousand more people voted in 2018 than during the last midterm in 2014—while feedback from Native American residents indicated that voting was easier this time. In addition, two Native Americans were…

Open the Bar (Spring 2019 Liberty Reporter)

13 May 2019 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
Undocumented immigrants qualified to practice law should be admitted to the Utah State Bar. Should beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program be admitted to the Utah State Bar, and does the Utah Supreme Court have the power to admit them?  These were the key questions raised in a petition to the Court by two DACA recipients seeking to become licensed attorneys in Utah. DACA is a program that grants protection from deportation as well as work authorization to qualified undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. To answer the questions, the Court invited the ACLU and others to weigh in as amicus curiae, or “friends of the court.” Ultimately, about a dozen organizations and individuals submitted briefs, including law professors, local law firms, the Utah Legislature, and the U.S. Department of Justice. In a brief the ACLU of Utah and the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project submitted to the Court in late March, we replied to both questions with an emphatic “yes.” We believe that the state’s judicial branch has the power to make this decision and that undocumented immigrants who meet the rigorous criteria for admission can and should be admitted to the Utah…

See You in Court, Again (Spring 2019 Liberty Reporter)

13 May 2019 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
The ACLU and Planned Parenthood join forces to protect reproductive rights in Utah. Twenty-eight years after we filed a lawsuit to stop an unconstitutional abortion ban, we did it again. On Wednesday, April 10, the ACLU of Utah Foundation joined with the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah (PPAU) to announce a lawsuit against H.B. 136, the 18-week abortion ban passed by the Utah Legislature and signed by Governor Herbert earlier this year. Backed by dozens of supporters holding bright pink signs reading “Trust Women,” speakers from both organizations pledged to maintain the right for Utah women to access safe and legal abortion.  “We are here today because our legislature has decided once again to attempt to curb important reproductive rights,” Leah Farrell, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Utah, told the activists and reporters assembled for the event. “And once again we are standing up to hold the line and to say, ‘We will see you in court.’”  A week later, on April 18, lawyers from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Utah secured a preliminary injunction against State defendants to prevent enforcement of the 18-week abortion ban. This means there will be no disruption in care for Utah women…

Perspectives (Spring 2019 Liberty Reporter)

13 May 2019 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
At a time when words like “invasion” and “crisis” dominate the immigration discussion, why does the ACLU use the Statue of Liberty to represent its mission and values? “The Statue of Liberty is a powerful icon across the world. For immigrants arriving to New York City in the early 1900s, to people crossing our borders today, Lady Liberty’s torch symbolizes freedom and opportunity. There is an American tendency to fondly remember earlier immigrants, while fearing current immigrants who are pursuing the same dreams. The ACLU protects the liberties and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution and laws for everyone no matter the headlines or attitudes of the moment. The Statue of Liberty endures, lighting the way for the huddled masses, as we push to achieve liberty and justice for all.” Brittney Nystrom, Executive Director       “Despite the importance of the U.S. Constitution, our nation’s founding document remains almost unapproachable, a faded piece of parchment hidden behind glass. So when the ACLU sought a symbol to represent freedom and equality, the Statue of Liberty stood tall as the embodiment of our nation’s best ideals. Calmly facing outward to welcome generations of immigrants and refugees to our shores, Lady Liberty and…

Calculating the Real Cost of Operation Rio Grande

08 November 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
Thousands arrested, hundreds in treatment, and an unclear path to success—the ACLU of Utah and Smart Justice Utah take a closer look at the numbers and reality behind Operation Rio Grande.

2018 Utah Voter Empowerment Guide

06 November 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
The ACLU doesn't endorse or oppose any candidate or party, but we believe voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and a fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest. This information is designed to help you protect your own right to vote. 

2018 Annual Membership Meeting Resources

22 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
Were you unable to come to our membership meeting on October 11? We get it, things happen or you might live too far from Salt Lake City? For everyone who was unable to attend the membership meeting, here’s all the information we shared. We hope to see many of you there next year!

Follow These Tips To Make Your Vote Count

18 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
Bring correct (and current) identification to your polling place Utah law requires valid photo identification (driver’s license from Utah or any state, U.S. passport, tribal ID card) to vote. You can also show two different forms of identification that record your name and address, like a student ID card, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, certified birth certificate, valid Utah hunting or fishing license, Medicaid, Medicare or EBT card, or Utah vehicle registration. Bills and paystubs must be dated within 90 days of the current election. Re-register if you’ve recently moved or changed your name If you’ve moved into a new voting precinct, your name won’t appear in your new area until you update your address. Ensure that your registration is current and accurate by going to the Utah Voter Registration website (https://secure.utah.gov/voterreg). Plug in your street address, Utah driver’s license number, and date-of-birth to verify your registration. Or call your county clerk’s office. Ask for a provisional ballot Whether you forgot your photo ID, didn’t update your new address, or showed up at the wrong polling place, you always have the right to cast a provisional ballot. These are real ballots that will be reviewed after Election Day and…

Operation Rio Grande

16 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
(October 17, 2018) In August 2017—three days after the launch of Operation Rio Grande (ORG) to ‘clean up’ the area near 500 West—the ACLU of Utah offered our view: “Operation Rio Grande appears to be, at this point in time, ‘business as usual.’” Noting the heavy focus on law enforcement, we described it as another ineffective attempt to address complex social issues like substance abuse and mental illness “through our broken criminal justice system.” Media reports that week noted that state officials secured 300 jail beds prior to the operation, but only 37 beds for drug treatment. Seeing how ORG was designed as a hammer, we predicted 14 months ago that everyone it touched would become a nail.

About the ACLU of Utah

10 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
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; Gender Equality; Privacy; and Religious Liberty & Freedom of Belief. In addition, we continue our commitment to protect the First Amendment. For more about the ACLU of Utah and our priorities please visit www.acluutah.org Staff Brittney Nystrom, Executive Director Marina Baginsky Lowe, Legislative & Policy Counsel John Mejia, Legal Director Leah Farrell, Senior Staff Attorney Cassie Taylor, Development Director Jessica Andrews, Finance & Business Manager Rachel Appel, Community Outreach Fellow Reinard Knutsen, Office Manager Jason Groth, Smart Justice Coordinator Margie Nash, Paralegal Sydni Makemo, Southern Utah Community Outreach Coordinator Jason Stevenson, Communications Manager Niki Venugopal, Development & Finance Assistant Board of Directors Danielle Hawkes, PresidentHeidi Chamorro, Vice PresidentBill Orchow, TreasurerSuresh Venkatasubramanian, SecretaryRichard Van Wagoner, Legal Panel LiaisonMary Hall, Affiliate Equity OfficerRoni Jo Draper, National ACLU Board Rep.Brian King, Governance Committee ChairChelsie Acosta, Gina Cornia, Forrest…

What's On The Hill: 2019 Legislative Preview

10 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
Our team will push forward on equality and criminal justice, while protecting rights we’ve already secured The 2019 Utah Legislative Session is just a few months away. Led by Marina Lowe, the ACLU of Utah’s Legislative & Policy Counsel, our team will be supporting an array of sound policy proposals next year.  As in previous years, we will rely on our well-informed and committed network of ACLU community activists to amplify our message. Stay tuned for more information about our lobbyist training workshops and online trainings in the new year.  Below is what we expect on our policy docket when the Utah Legislature convenes in late January 2019.   #1 Gender Equality We anticipate a variety of measures to ensure that Utah employees are treated fairly in the workplace. Did you know that Utah businesses with fewer than 15 workers don’t have to comply with antidiscrimination labor laws? We will seek to apply nondiscrimination protections to Utah employers with as few as one employee. This change would provide consistent and fair protections to employees from discrimination on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion.  The ACLU will also support efforts to expand access to the Family Medical Leave Act,…

How To Help Your Disillusioned Friend Vote

05 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2018 Fall Newsmagazine >>

Fighting Back for the Ballot

05 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
New laws and activist campaigns are expanding voter access across the nation—and right here in Utah Voter suppression is real. In 2011, the ACLU counted 30 attempts by state legislatures to restrict the right to vote through strategies such as limiting early voting opportunities and requiring photo IDs. But every action can spawn a reaction, and recent efforts to suppress voting have galvanized an equally strong response to protect and expand access to the ballot box—with the ACLU leading the charge.   Here are a few examples: In June, lawyers from the ACLU Voting Rights Project bested Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, in a three-week trial challenging his 2013 law requiring voters to prove their citizenship before registering to vote. Not only did the judge strike down the Kansas law as overly restrictive, but she also ordered Kobach to complete six hours of “continuing legal education,” the lawyer equivalent of being sent to summer school. When Georgia election officials attempted in August to close 7 out of 9 polling places in a rural county (claiming they weren’t accessible to people with disabilities), activists created a media firestorm to stop the effort by highlighting that a majority of people living…

Don’t Block Me

04 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
New court rulings agree that elected officials can’t block constituents on social media pages Our Founding Fathers could be mean. John Adams called Alexander Hamilton the “bastard brat of a Scottish peddler,” and claimed Thomas Jefferson’s soul was “poisoned with ambition.” Adams’ enemies retaliated by calling him a “blind, bald, crippled toothless man.” Political debates today can be just as heated, causing some elected leaders to block constituents who post critical views from accessing their Facebook or Twitter accounts. However, the ACLU of Utah believes that official social media platforms for elected leaders and government organizations are public forums, and that blocking individuals is an unconstitutional restriction on their right to free speech. As more lawsuits over social media blocking by elected officials are filed across the country, more judges are increasingly seeing it the same way. In April, the Governor of Maryland settled a lawsuit filed by the ACLU after his office blocked several constituents for posting critical comments. More recently, a federal judge in Maine allowed an ACLU lawsuit to continue against that state’s governor for blocking constituents—finding that social media censorship violated free speech rights. These rulings even apply to the nation’s highest political office: In May,…

The Cost of Operation Rio Grande

04 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
Thousands arrested, hundreds in treatment, and dozens in new employment—we take a closer look at the numbers behind the story In August 2017—three days after the launch of Operation Rio Grande (ORG) to ‘clean up’ the area near 500 West—the ACLU of Utah offered our view: “Operation Rio Grande appears to be, at this point in time, ‘business as usual.’” Noting the heavy focus on law enforcement, we described it as another ineffective attempt to address complex social issues like substance abuse and mental illness “through our broken criminal justice system.” Media reports that week noted that state officials secured 300 jail beds prior to the operation, but only 37 beds for drug treatment. Seeing how ORG was designed as a hammer, we predicted 14 months ago that everyone it touched would become a nail. A critical appraisal Operation Rio Grande’s 24-month timer will expire soon after the June 2019 closure of The Road Home shelter and its replacement with three homeless resource centers. With that deadline now ten months away, we believe a critical appraisal is necessary. On October 18, the ACLU of Utah and the Campaign for Smart Justice in Utah will host a panel discussion about ORG…

Smart Justice On a Roll

04 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
A recap of recent accomplishments by the Campaign for Smart Justice (CSJ) in Utah. District Attorney Debates On October 3, we organized a debate for the Salt Lake County District Attorney race between Republican Nathan Evershed and Democratic incumbent Sim Gill. While elections for county prosecutor jobs are typically low profile, this contest is getting attention because both candidates promote criminal justice reform. The Salt Lake County event was the second in our series of three debates coordinated with the ABU Education Fund. The final debate, held at Utah Valley University on October 9, featured both candidates vying for the open Utah County District Attorney job—Republican David Leavitt and Libertarian Andrew McCullough. CSJ is proud to highlight the important role of Utah’s county prosecutors, and to demonstrate that criminal justice reform is not a partisan issue. Blueprint for Change In September, CSJ released the “Blueprint for Smart Justice Utah” as part of a national campaign to develop actionable policy steps to transform the criminal justice system and stop mass incarceration. Based on two years of research by the National ACLU and the Urban Institute, Utah’s Blueprint identifies specific changes to reduce the state’s prison population by 50% and address racial…

Busy in the Courts

04 October 2018 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
Our legal team is currently investigating or litigating a half-dozen cases—from prisoner abuse to immigrants’ rights Porter v. Daggett County and Asay v. Daggett County (2018)Issue: Criminal justiceConstitutional claim: Cruel and unusual punishment / 8th Amendment Background: This spring, we filed lawsuits on behalf of three individuals seeking damages and injunctive relief for the extreme brutality they experienced while incarcerated at the Daggett County Jail. Our clients allege that they were shocked with a Taser for guards’ entertainment, attacked by police dogs, physically assaulted, threatened with a gun, and denied medical and mental health care. The widespread abuse at the Daggett County Jail led to guilty pleas from four former employees and forced the state to remove its prisoners and close the facility.  Update: We opposed the state defendants’ motions to dismiss them from the cases. Our clients sued to force more protective policies for state prisoners in county jails, which would benefit them and the one-in-five state prisoners presently in county jails. Ramirez v. Reddish (2018)Issue: Immigrants’ rightsConstitutional claim: Unlawful search and seizure / 4th Amendment Background: In February, we sued agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S Marshals, and state and local agencies over two SWAT-style…

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