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State v. Legg

Supreme Court of Utah

March 27, 2018

State of Utah, Respondent,
v.
John L. Legg, Jr., Petitioner.

          On Certiorari to the Utah Court of Appeals Third District, Salt Lake The Honorable Ann Boyden No. 101900677

          Sean D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., Jeanne B. Inouye, Asst. Solic. Gen., Salt Lake City, for respondent

          Diana Pierson, Salt Lake City, for petitioner.

          Justice Himonas authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Pearce, and Judge Johnson joined.

          Due to her retirement, Justice Durham did not participate herein; District Court Judge Christine Johnson sat.

          Justice Petersen became a member of the Court on November 17, 2017, after oral argument in this matter and accordingly did not participate.

          OPINION

          HIMONAS, JUSTICE.

         INTRODUCTION

         ¶1 While Mr. Legg's appeal of the revocation of his probation was in process, he completed the sentence the revocation required and was released from prison. Despite the presence of two of its prior decisions with contradictory holdings, the court of appeals then dismissed Mr. Legg's case as moot because of his release. This case presents two issues for our review. First, we must determine whether the court of appeals acted appropriately when it overturned these prior decisions. Second, we must decide whether collateral legal consequences are presumed when an appeal from a probation revocation has otherwise become moot or whether a defendant will be required to show actual collateral legal consequences.

         ¶2 We conclude that the court of appeals has the same authority to overturn its own precedent as this court and, moreover, acted appropriately in overturning its prior precedent in this case. Additionally, in a well-reasoned and thoughtful opinion, the court of appeals concluded that collateral legal consequences won't be presumed when an appeal from a probation revocation has otherwise become moot. State v. Legg (Legg II), 2016 UT App 168, ¶ 25, 380 P.3d 360. We agree with the court of appeals on both issues and therefore affirm their decision to dismiss Mr. Legg's appeal as moot.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶3 Mr. Legg pled guilty in two separate cases[1] to one count each of possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, both third-degree felonies. The district court sentenced Mr. Legg in both cases to the Utah State Prison for the indeterminate term of zero to five years. The court then suspended the prison sentences and placed Mr. Legg on probation for a period of twenty-four months. The court ordered the prison commitments and the periods of probation to run concurrently to one another. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Legg's probation was revoked in both cases for three probation violations, requiring him to serve out his prison sentences. Mr. Legg appealed the district court's decision to revoke his probation in both cases.[2] The court of appeals upheld the district court's findings on one of the probation violations but found that the district court had insufficient evidence in the record to support the other two findings of probation violations. The court of appeals then remanded the cases to the district court to determine if there was sufficient evidence to support the other two probation violations and to "reassess whether, under all of the circumstances, [Mr.] Legg's probation should be revoked."

         ¶4 On remand, the state dropped the two probation violations that the court of appeals said were not yet supported by sufficient evidence. The district court determined that the single probation violation upheld by the court of appeals was sufficient to warrant revoking Mr. Legg's probation. The district court therefore upheld the probation revocations in both of Mr. Legg's cases. Mr. Legg then filed an appeal in one case[3] arguing that the district court erred by not making evidentiary determinations on the two probation revocations, as mandated by the court of appeals. During the pendency of the second appeal, Mr. Legg completed his sentence and was released from prison.

         ¶5 The court of appeals determined that Mr. Legg's appeal was moot and dismissed his case. Legg II, 2016 UT App 168, ¶ 46, 380 P.3d 360. To reach this conclusion, the court of appeals overturned two of its prior cases (State v. Warner, 2015 UT App 81, 347 P.3d 846, and State v. Allen, 2015 UT App 163, 353 P.3d 1266), and concluded that adverse legal consequences aren't presumed in probation revocation cases. Legg II, 2016 UT App 168, ¶¶ 41-42. Additionally, the court of appeals found that Mr. Legg had been unable to set forth any actual adverse legal consequences he suffers as a result of his probation revocation. Id. ¶ 46.

         ¶6 Mr. Legg appeals this decision, arguing that the court of appeals erred in two respects. First, Mr. Legg contends that the court of appeals was incorrect in overturning its prior precedent under horizontal stare decisis. Second, Mr. Legg asserts that the court of appeals was incorrect in dismissing his case as moot because he was able to assert both presumed and actual collateral legal consequences. We have jurisdiction under Utah Code section 78A-3-102(5).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶7 "On certiorari, we review the decision of the court of appeals for correctness, giving no deference to its conclusions of law." State v. White, 2011 UT 21, ¶ 14, 251 P.3d 820. "[A]ppellate courts review the issue of mootness de novo." Cedar Mountain Envtl., Inc. v. Tooele Cty. ex rel. Tooele Cty. Comm'n, 2009 UT 48, ¶ 7, 214 P.3d 95 (alteration in original) (citation omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         I. THE COURT OF APPEALS CAN OVERTURN ITS PRIOR DECISIONS USING THE ELDRIDGE FACTORS

         ¶8 In Legg II, 2016 UT App 168, 380 P.3d 360, the court of appeals overruled two of its prior decisions: State v. Warner, 2015 UT App 81, 347 P.3d 846, and State v. Allen, 2015 UT App 163, 353 P.3d 1266. Mr. Legg argues that the decision to overrule ...


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