Cook v Bell

Cook and other unsuccessful sponsors of an intuitive proposal sued Bell arguing the 2011 changes to the initiative process (changing the number of signatures required and reducing the amount of time allowed) violate the state and federal constitution. The district court granted summary judgment to Bell. The Court, with one justice concurring in the judgment, affirmed. It held that because Cook provided no evidence that the change in signatures provision actually increased the number of signatures required and no evidence as to the effect of the new shorter time provision, the provisions on their face were reasonable. It also held the desire to counteract the artificially low number of signatures required due to a special gubernatorial election was legitimate. The majority held that because the new provisions apply to all proponents of initiative proposals, the law acted in a uniform manner and thus did not violate the state constitution. Finally, the majority held that that because the changes did not prevent political speech, there was no First Amendment violation. The concurrence argued the majority was not deferential enough to the legislature and argued the proper rule would be to uphold all regulations of the initiative process except those that effective eliminate the initiative power.

America West Bank Members, L.C. v State

State seized and liquidated America West Bank. Members sued for breach of contract, bad faith, takings and due process violations. The district court dismissed all claims. The Court affirmed. It held that because Members did not state in the complaint when the alleged contract was entered, terms of the contract and how the alleged breach occurred, both the breach of contract and bad faith claims failed to set out a short and plain statement of facts and thus dismissal was proper. Likewise, the Court held that Members failed to identify any facts which would support a claim of regulatory taking or any due process claim and dismissal was thus appropriate. It also concluded that the district court applied the correct pleading standards. The Court split, 4-1, on whether the due process claims should have been dismissed with prejudice. The majority held that this is a fact sensitive inquiry and thus the dismissal should be without prejudice. The dissent argued that a pre-seizure hearing is never required and thus the dismissal should be with prejudice.

Salt Lake City v Miles

Miles was convicted of possessing a dangerous weapon under the 2011 version of Utah Code 76-10-503 based on a pocketknife found in a jacket in the shopping cart he kept his possessions. He appealed arguing only the actual use of the pocketknife could be considered. A split panel of the Court of Appels rejected his argument and affirmed. The Court, 3-2, reversed. The majority held that the plain language of the then applicable definition distinguished a knife from items generally considered dangerous and the factors applicable to knives focus on actual use. Applying to the facts here, the majority held that none of the factors supported conviction as the pocketknife had no features suggesting it was a dangerous fighting knife, there was no wound, no use as a weapon and the knife had obvious lawful uses. Thus, the conviction was vacated. The dissent argued that the applicable definition applied to both actual and intended use particularly in the possession context as otherwise a convicted felons would never be guilty of possessing a dangerous object. It also argued that because Miles threatened to kill with the knife, there was an actual use here and in any event they jury’s determination should be deferred to.

State v Brown

The minor victim of Brown sought to file a claim for restitution. The district court ruled she was not a party and denied her request and then denied the State’s identical request as not allowed under the statute. The Court held that victims are limited parties under the restitution statute, Utah Code 77-37-3(1)(e) inasmuch as they can seek restitution and in another section, 77-38-11, can make motions which only parties can do. The Court held the error was harmless as the restitution sought, lost wages and expenses incurred by victim’s mother to attend hearings, were akin to litigation expenses which are universally held not recoverable and thus are outside the scope of the restitution statute.