Direct Appeal Third District, Salt Lake The Honorable William
Barrett No. 150900558
C. Anderson, Marshall Thompson, Salt Lake City, for appellant
Samantha J. Slark, Salt Lake City, for appellees
D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., Philip S. Lott, Joshua D. Davidson,
Asst. Att'ys Gen., Salt Lake City, for amicus curiae
Associate Chief Justice Lee authored the opinion of the
Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Justice Durham,
Justice Himonas, and Justice Pearce joined.
Associate Chief Justice
Sean Kendall seeks a declaration that Utah Code sections
63G-7-601 and 78B-3-104 violate the Open Courts Clause of the
Utah Constitution by restricting access to courts in lawsuits
against police officers. The district court dismissed
Kendall's claims on summary judgment, concluding that
Kendall lacked standing and, alternatively, that his claims
failed on their merits. We affirm without reaching the merits
of Kendall's constitutional claim-or even the merits of
the district court's standing analysis-because Kendall
fails to carry his burden of challenging the district
court's standing decision, which was an independent basis
for its dismissal.
This case arises out of an unfortunate incident in which a
Salt Lake City police officer shot and killed Kendall's
dog. Kendall seeks to assert a civil action against the
police officer and other government officials for damages
related to the death of his dog. And he claims that two
statutes impermissibly restrict his access to the courts to
bring his claim.
The two statutes in question erect high barriers to civil
suits against police officers. The first, Utah Code section
63G-7-601, requires that any plaintiff seeking to sue a
governmental entity "file an undertaking . . . in the
amount of $300, unless otherwise ordered by the court."
The second, section 78B-3-104, applies only to civil actions
against police officers "acting within the scope of the
officer's official duties." In such cases this
statute requires that the plaintiff "post a bond in an
amount determined by the court." Utah Code §
78B-3-104(1). And it specifies that "[t]he bond shall
cover all estimated costs and attorney fees the officer may
be expected to incur in defending the action, in the event
the officer prevails." Id. § 78B-3-104(2).
Kendall filed a complaint in the district court. He sought a
declaratory judgment that the bond and undertaking statutes
were invalid under the Open Courts Clause. That provision
guarantees a right of access to judicial process:
All courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury
done to him in his person, property or reputation, shall have
remedy by due course of law, which shall be administered
without denial or unnecessary delay; and no person shall be
barred from prosecuting or defending before any tribunal in
this State, by himself or counsel, any civil cause to which
he is a party.
Utah Const. art. I, § 11.
After discovery, the district court found that Kendall was
"willing and able to post the $300" required by the
undertaking statute. It also found that "Kendall [was]
impecunious and as a result, he [was] not required" to
comply with the bond statute. Based on these findings, the
district court concluded that Kendall lacked traditional
standing to challenge these statutory provisions. It ...