The Appellate Group

State v. Elkface

State v. Elkface, 2023 UT App 24 (Christiansen Forster, J.)


Beverly Ann Elkface entered guilty pleas and was sentenced by the district court. The sentencing judge was a former prosecutor who had prosecuted the case against her behind the scenes. Without knowledge of the extent of the judge’s involvement in her case or discussion with counsel, Ms. Elkface waived any conflict. She then appealed her sentence, arguing that defense counsel provided ineffective assistance for failing to seek the disqualification of the judge. The court of appeals reversed and remanded, holding:

  • Counsel performed deficiently by failing to either insist that the judge disqualify himself or to insist that the court obtain a valid waiver.
  • Of note: This case differs from Grover, 2022 UT App 48, both in the obvious need for disqualification and the standard of review appellant raised.

Read the full court opinion