The Appellate Group

Widdison v. Utah Board of Pardons and Parole

Widdison v. Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, 2021 UT 12 (Pearce, J.) (A.C.J., Lee, concurring)


The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole denied Widdison parole based upon unadjudicated conduct. Widdison appealed, arguing that her constitutional rights were violated. The Utah Supreme Court granted review, and thereafter Widdison was paroled. Widdison asked the court to consider the issues anyway under the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine. The Utah Supreme Court dismissed the appeal as moot, holding:

  • The public interest exception to the mootness doctrine does not apply because the court is not convinced that, absent this case, it will be deprived of the opportunity to review the types of issues Widdison raises here. Widdison has argued but has not shown on the record that the Board strategically paroled her in order to evade review of this issue.
  • Concurrence: The concurrence writes to express its concern that this case has added an additional wrinkle to the public interest exception test: that the exception may apply based upon the “likely actions of a party” instead of the “intrinsic temporary nature of the issues presented.” The majority responds that it does not intend to expand the exception in this way.
  • Practice Point: The majority declines to overrule the cases the concurrence suggests overruling because neither party has asked the court to overrule them. Parties must shoulder the burden of overturning precedent.
  • Practice Point: The principle of “voluntary cessation” in relation to mootness is not well developed in Utah jurisprudence. The court notes a number of lingering questions for future parties to address.

Read the full court opinion