State v Ringstad

Ringstad appealed his rape and child sex abuse convictions. The panel affirmed. It held there was no ineffective assistance of counsel in trial counsel decision to stipulate to abuse allegations by victim’s sister as he pursed a reasonable strategy of arguing fabrication based on inconsistencies in victim and sister’s testimony, the fact that both denied abuse when first asked about it and the fact that both girls exhibited normal behavior with good grades and extracurricular activities during the period of abuse and given the fact the Ringstad confessed to some of the allegations to the police. It held admitting the sister’s testimony was not plain error because trial counsel stipulated to the testimony. It held there was no prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct as a personal opinion during rebuttal was overwhelmed by the confession and victim’s testimony, the use of penis instead of privates in quoting defendant’s confession was proper, there is no Utah precedent baring the use of religious facts and prosecutor’s use of religious experiences in rebuttal was not done to align himself with the jury but instead was done to counter defense augment about memory of traumatic events. It finally held that there was no cumulative error.

Burr v Koosharem Irrigation Company

Burr appealed the denial of his motion to intervene. The panel reversed and remanded. It held Burr’s motion was timely as it was filed approximately one month after a plaintiff’s estate moved to dismiss the deceased as a plaintiff and this was done before settlement or judgment and before a trial date and Burr had no need to intervene during the preceding two years of litigation as the 10% shareholding requirements for a derivative suit were met by the then group pf plaintiffs. It held Burr had an interest in the litigation as a shareholder in Company. It held there was an issue of fact as to whether the case is moot given the term of office of the directors which plaintiffs sought to remove has expired and whether Burr’s ability to protect his interest is impaired. It finally held that Burr’s interests were no longer adequately represented when the deceased plaintiff was removed as the 10% shareholding threshold was no longer met and the case would have been dismissed.

Chesley v Chesley

Husband appealed the grant of alimony n the parties’ divorce decree. The panel vacated the award and remanded for entry of adequate findings as the district court failed to enter any findings about wife’s needs and a review of the record does not provide any basis to determine why the amount of alimony was ordered.

In the Interests of L.A. (J.R. v State)

J.R. appealed the termination of his paternal rights. The panel affirmed. It held that J.R.’s due process claim was unpreserved, his argument about not being transported to several hearings was inadequately briefed and while there was some confusion about who bore responsibility to initiate DNA testing and there was delay in determining paternity, J.R. filed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity and was adjudicated L.A.’s father and thus there was no harm from the delay particularly as J.R. bore the burden of proof. It held the finding that J.R. would need services after release from jail  was supported by sufficient evidence including his probation violation and drug use and the finding that J.R. was unable to remain out of jail and thus could not become a competent parent in the near future  and was unable or unwilling to remedy the circumstances than caused L.A. to be removed from the home was supported by sufficient evidence including his being in jail when L.A. was born and returning to jail during the pendency of this proceeding for probation violation plus his lack of income and drug use.

Silva v Silva

Ex-wife appealed the denial of her motion to set aside a default judgment and sheriff’s sale and an award of attorney fees to ex-husband. The panel reversed and remanded for additional proceedings. It held service here was improper as ex-husband knew two email addresses for ex-wife, her active telephone number and had other avenues of communication which demonstrate his efforts of leaving process at the last known address and serving by publication were not reasonably calculated to give notice under the circumstances and thus both the judgment and the attorney fee award are void and must be set aside. Because the judgment was void, the sheriff’s sale must be set aside as well as title could not pass and the case was remanded for further proceedings. The panel finally denied both parties’ motions for attorney fees on appeal.

State v MacDonald

The State took an interlocutory appeal of the district court orders suppressing statements made at two interviews and denying in part a motion to admit other bad acts evidence. The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part. The panel reversed as to the first interview as MacDonald voluntarily went to eth police station, questioning only lasted 30 minutes, he was assured that he could leave after the interview, he was not restrained, there were no visible weapons and the door was left unlocked and thus there was no custodial interrogation for Miranda purposes. It reversed as to the second interview because MacDonald voluntarily went to eth police station, questioning only lasted 1 hour 50 minutes, he was assured that he could leave after the interview, he was not restrained, there were no visible weapons and the door was left unlocked and the questioning was pointed but calm and respectful and thus there was no custodial interrogation for Miranda purposes. It affirmed in part on the other bad acts order holding the district court properly found evidence that MacDonald yelled at the victim had no purpose other than proof of bad character, that the district court did not error in excluding evidence MacDonald called the victim a whiner, that the State did not challenge the basis for excluding evidence of MacDonald’s jealousy and that the district court’s balancing of relevance and prejudice as to MacDonald flipping off victim was within its discretion. It reversed and remanded as to evidence MacDonald dropped victim onto a beanbag and that he bruised victim’s cheeks while giving him medicine as the district court incorrectly ruled the evidence had no permissible evidentiary value before doing the required balancing as the Utah Supreme Court has held evidence of past abuse is potentially admissible to prove a pattern as to a specific victim and to rebut claims of accident.

In the Interests of C.J. (R.C. v State)

R.C. appealed the termination of his parental rights. The panela affirmed. It held there was sufficient evidence to support the finding that R.C. is unfit including his living with his father who has unresolved substance abuse problems, his failure to address his mental health issues through timely participation in ordered therapy and his lack of needed skills to meet the significant needs of C.J. It held the evidence was sufficient to support the finding of best interests as C.J. has significant needs and is in a foster home with parents who have skills to meet those needs and the desire to adopt her.

State v Reyos

Reyos appealed his aggravated murder and gun convictions and his life sentence. The panel affirmed. It held that a witness who claimed amnesia about a statement made to police was available for confrontation clause and rules of evidence purposes as he physically appeared on the stand and Reyos had the opportunity to enquire about possible drug or alcohol use at the time of the statement which could have undermined the statement. As to the sentence, the panel held that Utah’s aggravated murders sentencing scheme does not violate due process as the sentencing judge is not required to make any findings which increase sentences and in fact only sentences within a defined range of penalties and noted Reyos’ equal protection or uniform operation arguments are identical to those already rejected by the Utah Supreme Court.

State v Magness

Magness appealed the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The panel reversed and remanded. It first held the district court erred in narrowly focusing on the plea hearing and whether the alleged misstatements as to whether the victim wanted Magness to go to prison were misconduct as the rule in Utah is to consider the totality of the circumstances including innocent misrepresentations. It held the prosecutor told Magness three times that the victim did not want him to go to prison when in fact she did and these misstatements undermined the voluntariness of the guilty plea as Magness was left legitimately confused about the likely punishment which would flow from the plea. It finally held the district court should consider whether the false statements also undermine the waiver of preliminary hearing on remand.

In the Interests of C.C., R.T., T.T. and X.W. (A.W. v State)

A.W. appealed the termination of her parental rights. The panel, with one judge concurring, affirmed. The majority held A.W.’s argument for a heightened standard of review was inadequately briefed and failed to acknowledge the Court had rejected a similar claim in 2011. It held that A.W. received reasonable accommodation of her disabilities including frequent visits by the caseworker, one on one modeling of desired skills, one on one therapy sessions and an extension of time from the juvenile court. It finally held that evidence of A.W.’s drug use during pregnancies and during the pendency of this action which she admitted interfered with her ability to parent was sufficient to support the termination order. Judge Christiansen concurred arguing that current law inadequately accounts for eth issues arising form being a domestic violence victim and called for better resources to allow victims to escape abusive relationships.

State v Garcia-Mejia

Garcia-Mejia appealed his convictions for child sodomy and sex abuse. The panel affirmed. It affirmed the sodomy conviction as victim testified Garcia-Mejia pulled victim’s head to his penis and held it there, the inconsistencies in testimony were did not go to the elements of the crime, Garcia-Mejia admitted to police that his penis was in victim’s mouth, failure to report the sex abuse during an earlier investigation was because the investigation was about physical abuse and differing prosecution and defense evidence merely means the jury makes the call as to which version to believe. It affirmed the sex abuse convictions as evident from five children that Garcia-Mejia touched them on their genitals with his hand, four testifying that he touched their buttocks with his penis and moved or removed their underpants, and his daughter testifying he touched her breast was sufficient circumstantial evidence the touching was done with intent to arouse or gratify sexual desire.

Ortiz v Crowther

The panel ordered the district court to rule on Ortiz Rule of Civil Procedure 59 motion so Ortiz premature notice of appeal can become timely and perfect appellate jurisdiction.