The Appellate Group

West Valley City v. Rawson

West Valley City v. Rawson, 2021 UT 16 (Lee, A.C.J.)

Statutory Interpretation; Attorney Fees

A police officer was charged with manslaughter arising out of conduct in the line of duty. The case was dismissed after the preliminary hearing. The assignee of the officer sought reimbursement for attorney fees under Utah Code § 52-6-201, which provides a right of reimbursement of “reasonable attorney fees and court costs necessarily incurred” in a successful defense of a criminal charge against a government employee arising out of his employment. The assignee sought over $300,000 in fees and costs. The city contested the amount of fees, and the district court rejected the city’s arguments. On interlocutory review, the Utah Supreme Court affirmed in part and remanded:

  • Because a $60,000 donation to the officer’s defense did not alter the amount of attorney fees incurred in the officer’s defense, there is no statutory basis for excluding that $60,000 donation from the calculation of attorney fees under Utah Code § 52-6-201.
  • There is a potential ambiguity in the legal services agreement about the existence of a $35,000 flat fee, so the supreme court remands for further proceedings.

Read the full court opinion