The Appellate Group

Patterson v. State

Patterson v. State, 2021 UT 52 (Pearce, J.)

Post-Conviction Relief

Patterson filed a petition for post-conviction relief more than three years after the denial of his petition for certiorari in his direct appeal. The district court granted the State’s motion for summary judgement on the basis that the petition was untimely. Patterson appealed, and his arguments included that the post-conviction relief act (PCRA) is unconstitutional to the extent that it is interpreted to constrain the supreme court from exercising its constitutional writ authority. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed, and its holdings included:

  • The judiciary has power to issue writs under the Utah Constitution, and “the Legislature can neither expand nor diminish the substantive writ authority the people of Utah granted the judicial branch.” However, the writ power is exercised pursuant to rule 65C of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, which adopts the terms of the PCRA into the court rules, thereby providing that the PCRA is the sole legal remedy for post-conviction petitions.
  • There is no “egregious injustice” exception to the time bars of the PCRA or rule 65C of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. Under the current version of rule 65C, the court can only hear a time-barred case when failure to do so would violate a petitioner’s constitutional rights. But here, Patterson did not persuade the court that the time bar violated his constitutional rights.
  • OF NOTE: The court “le[ft] open the possibility that another petitioner, on another set of facts, might be able to demonstrate that the application of the time bars in the PCRA and rule 65C run afoul of the Suspension Clause, or some other provision, of the Utah Constitution.”

Read the full court opinion