by Rodney R. Parker, Dani Cepernich, Robert Cummings, Scott Elder, Nathanael Mitchell, and Adam Pace
Editor’s Note: The following appellate cases of interest were recently decided by the Utah Supreme Court, Utah Court of Appeals, and United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The following summaries have been prepared by the authoring attorneys listed above, who are solely responsible for their content.
UTAH SUPREME COURT
Noor v. State, 2019 UT 3, 435 P.3d 221 (Jan. 18, 2019)
In this appeal from the denial of a petition for post-conviction relief, the Utah Supreme Court confirmed that Utah R. Civ. P. 15(c) applies to proposed amendments to petitions under the Post-Conviction Remedies Act filed after the statute of limitations has run. The court held that to “relate back” under Rule 15(c), “the cause of action or claim asserted must generally be the same in both pleadings, and the issue presented in the amendment must factually relate to the issue presented in the first pleading. Applying that standard, the court held the petitioner’s proposed claim of ineffective assistance of counsel – based on the failure to obtain a competent translator to ensure that he understood those speaking at trial – related back to his original ineffective assistance of counsel claim, asserted pro se, based on trial counsel’s failure to alert the trial court to the petitioner’s lack of fluency in English.
Interestingly, the Tenth Circuit decided United States v. Roe, 913 F.3d 1285 (10th Cir. Jan. 29, 2019) eleven days later, in which it applied the slightly-different federal standard for Rule 15(c) that applies to a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, correct, or set aside a sentence – which the Utah Supreme Court distinguished in Noor – to hold that the criminal defendant’s proposed amended claim did not relate back to his original motion.
State v. Trujillo, 2019 UT 5 (Jan. 29, 2019)
Reversing the defendant’s conviction, the Supreme Court held that the witness retaliation statute requires a showing that the defendant intended for the threat or harmful action to reach the targeted witness, but does not require proof that the threat actually reached the witness.
Utah Stream Access Coal. v. VR Acquisitions, LLC, 2019 UT 7 (Feb. 20, 2019)
The Utah Supreme Court clarified that its decision in Conatser v. Johnson, recognizing a public easement right to touch privately owned beds of state waters incidental to recreation, was based on common law which can be overridden by statute, and was not a constitutional right.
C.R. England v. Swift Transportation Company, 2019 UT 8 (Feb. 27, 2019)
On a certified question from the federal district court, the Utah Supreme Court declined an invitation to overturn St. Benedict’s Development Co. v. St. Benedict’s Hospital, 811 P.2d 194 (Utah 1991), which held that a plaintiff alleging intentional interference with contract must show that the defendant interfered through “improper means.” Acknowledging that St. Benedict’s had misinterpreted prior precedent, the court nonetheless concluded that the resulting “improper means” requirement was both legally sound and firmly embedded in Utah law. The court went on to...