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Challenge to Unconstitutional UDOT Policy Heard At 10th Circuit

This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2014 Fall Newsletter >>

On October 1, 2014, the 10th Circuit heard argument in the State’s appeal of the ACLU of Utah’s federal district court victory in iMatter v. UDOT, in which the court held unconstitutional the Utah Department of Transportation’s policy of requiring people to buy insurance to hold parades on state roads, mainly because there was no exception for people who could not afford such insurance.  The court also struck down UDOT’s requirement that parade organizers indemnify the state against lawsuits. 

Below is a travelogue by John Mejia, who attended the argument in Denver, Colorado.

Tuesday, September 30 - Evening: I arrive at Denver Airport.  Is that a live rock band playing in a beer garden in the terminal?  I’m certainly not in Salt Lake anymore!

I walk to dinner meeting with Stewart Gollan, our co-counsel from the Utah Legal Clinic, and his crew.  Stewart is going to argue the case -I’m there as second chair and professional note-passer.  Stewart wants to make sure that we’ve gone over every theory and potential question that he might get from the panel.  Believe it or not, I think we’ve done so by the end of dinner.

Wednesday, October 1 - Morning: We check in with the clerk at the Byron White Courthouse.  We’re fifth on the docket of cases being heard by a panel made up of Judges Briscoe, Hartz, and Holmes.  

The cases before us are all interesting, but even more interesting is studying the styles of the attorneys arguing them.  During every argument, I note what is working and what clearly isn’t.  The judges call for a ten-minute break before our case.

Since the State appealed, they get to argue first, represented by Cliff Peterson.  The judges ask tough, probing questions about the State’s policies and whether they stand up to constitutional scrutiny.   As a clearly biased observer, I am not convinced by the State’s answers.

Also as a biased observer, Stewart was excellent.  He was thoroughly prepared and had an immediate, on point answer to every question.  Most importantly, he clearly helped the judges to better understand our position, emphasizing our strengths and candidly addressing any concerns.  Of all the attorneys I saw in court today, Stewart was by far the most poised- and this was his first time in this court!  

Today:  With arguments done, all we can do is wait for the court to rule.  While predicting an outcome would be a fool’s errand, I can say that I’m confident that we’ve put our best foot forward.  We’ll keep you updated when we hear the result!

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

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