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Victory! Utah Supreme Court Vacates Gang Injunction

Liberty Reporter: The 2014 Winter Newsletter >>

 Weber Co v. Ogden Trece

The ACLU of Utah and cooperating attorneys from Parr Brown Gee & Loveless and Richards & Pace, were victorious in the Weber Co v. Ogden Trece case. On October 18, 2013, the Utah Supreme Court vacated the unconstitutional Ogden “gang injunction” because Weber County violated Utah’s rules regarding service of process. Service of process is crucial because it ensures that the party being sued has proper notice of the lawsuit and an opportunity to be heard.

Weber County violated the rules because it sued Ogden Trece as an unincorporated association, thus seeking to bind hundreds of alleged members without having to name them, but did not follow Utah rules to serve such an organization. Rather, the trial court improperly allowed the County to follow California procedure, which differs from Utah’s. Because of this serious error, the Utah Supreme Court found that the trial court had no jurisdiction over the Ogden Trece and required that the injunction be vacated.

We opposed this unjust injunction, which originated in 2010, because of its many unconstitutional provisions and its grant of overbroad powers to police. The injunction contained unlawful limits on the rights of association, expression, bearing arms, due process, travel, and more. Further, some of the prohibitions were vague, such as refraining from annoying conduct, which gave police the power to selectively decide what conduct might be a violation of the injunction.

Worse yet, the injunction applied the entire city of Ogden and allowed police to unilaterally decide who would be subject to its panoply of restrictions! Rather than require a court to decide who was a member of the gang and thus subject to all of the injunction’s prohibitions, the injunction gave police discretion to decide who would be bound by the injunction. Once that person was bound, he or she had to go to court to prove that he or she was not a gang member.

Because the Utah Supreme Court decided that service was improper, however, it did not have to grapple with these many constitutional problems. Cooperating attorney David Reymann said, “No one disputes that gang crime exists and is a problem in our communities. But that fact does not justify imposing martial law on a targeted minority group and sacrificing core constitutional liberties for the mere illusion of security.”

John Mejia, Legal Director of the ACLU of Utah, stated “It is a victory for every Utahn’s rights that this overreaching and overbroad injunction is no longer on the books.” He then spoke about the future of the types of injunctions handled in this case, “Because the Court did not reach the merits of the injunction, though, this may only be the beginning of a longer fight. You can be certain that if Weber County tries again to push for this kind of injunction, we will be on the other side pushing back.”

More information on this case can be found at www.acluutah.org/legal-work/resolved-cases

Supreme Court Trece Hearing

The ACLU of Utah team with cooperating attorney (and Board member), David Reymann and Board member Representative Rebecca Chavez- Houck stand outside the Utah Supreme Court after the hearing on the June 4, 2013, appeal of Weber County v. Ogden Trece.