Utah Supreme Court throws out anti-gang injunction

Posted at 2:35 PM, Oct 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-18 16:36:42-04

OGDEN, Utah -- After two and a half years, the Ogden gang injunction is no more; the Utah Supreme Court ruled Friday to throw it out.

Highlights of the 18-page ruling are that Ogden Trece is an unincorporated association that can be sued, but they were not properly serviced with process, which was the technicality that led the court's decision.

Click here to view the full text of the ruling. The ruling is also available for download as a PDF here.

The Ogden gang injunction was put in place back in June, 2012. It banned several hundred known and alleged members of the Ogden Trece gang from associating with each other in public or carrying any weapons. It also created an 11:00 p.m. curfew.

Michael Studebaker is the attorney representing several of the alleged gang members, and he said the injunction is a bad thing.

"Our position has always been, if they break a law then prosecute them, but this is a preemptive strike that's on its face unconstitutional,” he said.

John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah adds: "I would say that this decision protects the rights of all Utahns. Once the government is allowed to start serving an injunction on a disfavored group, that sort of is an end run around the First Amendment's right to association."

According to the ruling, the gang injunction was thrown out because Weber County did not serve summons to the people deemed leaders - or "shot callers" - of the gang, and service on mere members is not enough. County officials said this ruling is a temporary setback for crime prevention, but they said they'll use the information the court provided to refocus their efforts.

Deputy Weber County Attorney Branden Miles said they will continue their efforts.

"They very clearly ruled that Ogden Trece, as a criminal street gang, can be sued and can be attacked with the process of a civil gang injunction,” he said. “They merely gave us guidance on how we need to properly serve them in the future. We plan to fully comply with this ruling and readdress this in future litigation."

The Ogden Police Department also released a statement, which said:

"The Utah Supreme Court announced today that the injunction against the Ogden Trece Gang is void due to insufficient service of process. We do not view this decision as a set back as to the merits of the injunction, but rather a direction from the court as to how to serve a criminal gang. The opinion in no way stated that our actions were unconstitutional, that they violated fundamental constitutional rights of gang members, or that this was an illegitimate tool for law enforcement to use to combat criminal activity. The Ogden Police Department will continue to work diligently with the Weber County Attorney’s Office to bring proceedings against the criminal street gang again, as the gang injunction has demonstrated to be an effective tool to lower crime and enhance the safety of our community."

As Weber County moves ahead with refiling for the injunction, they said they'll focus on establishing who the leaders of the gang are. If they are not successful in doing that, they'll need to detail exactly why they can't pinpoint the "shot callers" and what they did to try.