The Appellate Group

Laws v. Grayeyes

Laws v. Grayeyes, 2021 UT 59 (Durrant, C.J., Petersen, J., joining) (Lee, A.C.J. concurring in conclusion) (Pearce, J. concurring in conclusion, Himonas, J., joining)


Appellant challenged his political Opponent’s residency after his Opponent won an election as county commissioner in San Juan County. The district court concluded that Opponent’s evidence established that he both maintained a part-time trailer in Arizona and a principle place of residence in San Juan County. On direct appeal, The Utah Supreme Court dismissed plaintiff’s appeal for lack of standing, vacating the district court’s decision on the merits, holding:

  • Traditional standing requires a showing of a “particularized injury” that gives a plaintiff appellant “a personal stake in the outcome of the legal dispute.” Here, Appellant has not alleged a sufficiently particularized injury to meet the requirements for traditional standing, because he asserts only a “general interest that he shares in common with members of the public at large”—his voter status. He does not claim to have suffered distinctly from other registered voters in the county. Appellant’s statutory standing argument is inadequately briefed.
  • The district court did not err in denying Opponent attorney fees. Appellant did not file in bad faith. And the “private attorney general doctrine”—allowing a court to award attorney fees under extraordinary circumstances—was expressly disavowed by the Utah legislature in 2009. And even if the legislature’s disavowal was unconstitutional, Opponent is not entitled to an award under that doctrine.
  • CONCURRENCE. A.C.J. Lee: Appellant lacks standing because our courts lack the power to resolve a public rights action filed by a private party. And Opponent has not shown that the legislature’s disavowal of the private attorney general doctrine is unconstitutional in the first instance.
  • CONCURRENCE. J. Pearce: The Utah Constitution may not necessitate the same standing requirements as the U.S. Supreme Court imposes via its interpretation of the federal constitution. Our constitution might not prevent the legislature from granting standing for a plaintiff who cannot meet “traditional” standing requirements. Everyone agrees the Utah Constitution omits the language the federal courts use to justify imposition of standing requirements. So Utah’s constitution may not impose the same requirements. We should, instead, look to prudential standards generally imposed upon would-be litigants in Utah.

Read the full court opinion