State v Rasabout

Rasabout appealed his multiple convictions for unlawful discharge of a weapon based on one count for each shot in a single episode of freeing a gun. The Court, with two justices concurring in part and in judgment, affirmed. The majority held that using the normal tools of statutory construction, including dictionary definitions and context, the statue, Utah Code76-10-105, sets the unit of prosecution as each individual shot of a projectile form a firearm. Here, Rasabout shot 12 rounds and thus committed 12 crimes. The majority reasoned this reading creates an incentive to stop shooting which is a permissible legislative goal. It rejected as inappropriate one of the concurrences sua sponte use of corpus linguistics as unfair to the parties, conducted by a nonexpert judge and improperly omitting the language of the statue which is the sole text that matters. The majority held that the rule of lenity did not apply as 105 is unambiguous. It noted that lenity is a constitutional doctrine that is not affected by Utah’s strict construction statute. The majority also rejected a double jeopardy argument noting multiple sentences are fine if they punish separate crimes. The majority held that the single criminal episode and single larceny rules did not apply here because multiple charges are allowed under the single episode rule and here was no theft here. The majority finally held that one shot one crime does not implicate cruel and unusual punishment as the unit of prosecution is not punishment. One justice concurred in judgment, but, declined to join the rejection of corpus linguistics noting that while there were problems with sua sponte analysis and it could add costs to the already costly litigation system, when done by the parties it could provide an additional tool of analysis. One justice concurred in judgment arguing that discharge is ambiguous and that judicial intuition is appropriate in resolving ambiguity, checking that intuition against actual usage is also appropriate. He argued that all judges engage in corpus linguistics analysis by consulting the language they have heard or read over their lifetimes, dictionaries or other court opinions. He argued that using tools like Google news or a database of current American usage is merely another way to analysis whether intuition is correct. Based on his searches and evaluation, this concurrence argued that discharge means one shot. He also argued that corpus analysis should be welcomed as more transparent and thus fair; is akin to taking judicial notice of legislative facts; that it is true judges are not expert linguistics scholars, but, just as judges do historical analysis all judges already do corpus analysis and at the level done here, it is akin to using a calculator in addition to math in our head; corpus analysis will not require experts in every case particularly as it an interpretive tool of last resort and lawyers learn new tools all the time; that corpus analysis is not a search for “ordinary meaning” at the expense of determining legislative intent; and many data points is better than one point in evaluating statistical significance.

Meza v State

Meza had his plea in abeyance withdrawn and drug charges dismissed. He filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing failure to inform about the immigration effects of his plea which the district court denied. The Court, unanimous on one issue and with three opinions concurring in result on another, affirmed. The court unanimously agreed that the post-conviction relief statue plainly allows relief only when a defendant has been convicted and sentenced and a plea in abeyance is not a conviction under eh plain language of the plea in abeyance statute. Thus, denial of his petition was correct. As to Meza’s motion for extraordinary writ, two justices argued that because the post-conviction relief statute did not apply, Meza can bring a motion under rule of civil procedure 60(b)(6) to set aside the plea in abatement as inequitable in the circumstances. Two justices argued Meza didn’t explicitly ask for extraordinary relief and didn’t preserve the issue below, so, there was no need to analyze the issue. One justice argued that Meza didn’t ask for relief and the discussion of rule 60 was advisory and seems contradictory to the exclusive nature of the post-conviction relief statute.

Rupp v Moffo

Rupp, as bankruptcy trustee, sued Moffo under the fraudulent transfers act arguing she received a fraudulent transfer by living in a house rent free after the owner declared bankruptcy. The district court granted summary judgment to Rupp. The Court, with one justice concurring in judgment, reversed. The majority held that Rupp had statutory standing as he is a creditor under the definitions in the act and creditors have standing to sue. However, eh majority held that under the plain language of the act, property which is encumbered beyond its market value is not an asset which can be transferred and this reading is consistent with the need for creditors to prove prejudice. The concurrence argued that Rupp lacked any cognizable particularized injury and thus had no standing to sue.

Salt Lake City v Carrera

Carrera appealed his conviction for unlawful possession of another’s Social security card. The Court, 4-1, reversed. The majority held that the applicable staute, Utah Code 76-6-1105(a) (2) requires nefarious inent in addition to possession without permission. Here, the facts that the card was found in Carrera’s wallet and the fact that Carrera resisted the arresting officer do not prove nefarious intent and City’s argument Carrera’s failure to provide and innocent explanation for possessing the card was inadequately briefed and could raise serious constitutional issues. Thus, the conviction must be reversed. The dissent argued that the inference of nefarious intent form the failure to provide an innocent explanation was available to the jury, was not challenged by Carrera at trial or on appeal, was embraced by the City at oral argument and thus should either be considered in the analysis or more briefing should be ordered.

State v Christiansen

The Salt lake County prosecutor field a petition to empanel a grand jury with Christiansen and the four other district court judges who formed the panela that can authorize such empaneling. The panel rejected the request. The state field a petition for extraordinary writ. The Court denied the petition. It first held that the panel’s decision to not empanel a grand jury is reviewable by petition for extraordinary writ because the Court has original jurisdiction over extraordinary writs, there is no other method to obtain relief here, the panel exercised judicial authority and performed a judicial function as Utah has always assigned the decision whether a grand jury should be empaneled to district court judges and no other officer and the screening provides protection against prosecutorial power. The Court held there was no abuse of discretion because good cause to empanel is not merely a reasonable request from a prosecutor, the panel is allowed to consider the embers experiences and any other reasoned factors in making decisions and there was no evidence the panel refused to hear the state’s evidence and argument.