Schroeder v Utah Attorney General’s Office

Schroeder filed a freedom of information request for bank records seized through a subpoena in an investigation led by the Office, a summary of those records created by an investigator and a note purportedly containing instructions to the investigator. The request was denied and the denial was upheld by the district court. The court reversed. As to the bank records, the Court held that Utah constitution Article I, section 14’s prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure does not protect any privacy interest in bank records seized by a lawful subpoena and since bank records are not exempted from disclosure and Office did not argue any statutory exemption applied, the records must be turned over to Schroeder. The Court noted that in addition to protections in Utah’s freedom of information act, the Office remains free to persuade the legislature to expand protection to lawfully seized bank records. A to the summary and note, the Court held that review is for correctness without deference as the issue will not involve complex factual determinations, will usually involve documentation and appellate guidance is possible and appropriate here. The Court the district court properly characterized them as work product as they were created after an investigation started and contained the mental impressions of prosecutors. . However, it held the district court failed to weigh the specific interests involved instead of general policies and because the investigation closed several years ago, the interests in keeping them protected from disclosure is weak and the public interest in exposing possible government corruption is strong. Thus, both the summary and the note must be disclosed.

State v Steed

Steed challenged the constitutionality of Utah’s Asset Preservation Statute. The district court rejected the challenge. The Court, with one justice concurring in part and in judgment, dismissed as moot. The majority first noted that Steed conceded technical mootness but argued for review under the evading review exception. It next held that for a case to qualify for this exception, the litigant must be affected for such a brief period that the issue is likely to evade review and disavowed any prior articulation of the element. It held that freeze orders under the Act stay in effect long enough for challenges to be made and appealed and thus the exception does not apply. The concurrence argued that the capable of evading review exception to mootness is justified under stare decisis, but, the alternative approach of allowing review when a party’s voluntary act moots the claim if the Court determines an issue is too rapid for review and the normal litigant will not seek to take the voluntary act because of the difficulty and costs to the litigant allows advisory opinions and thus the case allowing this approach should be overruled.

Washington County School District v Labor Commission

District appealed the Court of Appeals affirmance of Commission’s affirmance of the administrative law judge’s ruling that an employee’s covered first back injury was a contributing cause to a second back injury and thus additional workers compensation benefits were due. The Court reversed. After reviewing the language of the workers compensation act and its precedent on the issue, the Court held that the “a contributing cause” standard does not require enough connection between first an subsequent injuries and clarified that the first injury must be a significant contributing cause of the second injury not just a minor one. It rejected District’s greater than 50% causal standard as inconsistent with the language of the act and further noted that other states take varied approaches to the issue and the substantial causation standard is consistent with how many jurisdictions deal with the issue. The case was remanded to the administrative law judge for proceedings under the correct standard.