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South Salt Lake Journal

Referendum case marches on

Jul 01, 2022 10:22AM ● By Bill Hardesty

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

The referendum court case keeps going on.

Seven SSL residents petitioned the Utah Supreme Court on April 18 to put a decision on city elected officials compensation in the hands of voters. Oral arguments were held June 7. On June 8, the court provided its decision or stated more clearly its no-decision.

The petitioners were asking for an extraordinary writ of mandamus. A writ of mandamus relates to any public authority's performance of a legal duty. They were trying to make it extraordinary, allowing it to bypass the district court and be heard directly by the Utah Supreme Court.

The justices did not agree. Their ruling said, "A petitioner should, at a minimum, set forth the facts—the deadlines and anticipated timeline, for example—that demonstrate that it would be impractical or inappropriate to file in district court. Petitioners have not met even this minimal threshold, and we must therefore deny the Petition for Extraordinary Writ of Mandamus."

Stated differently, the petitioners did not provide enough information to show why the district court should be bypassed. The court did not feel that the petitioners' statement that "[a] proceeding in a lower court could only result in increased delay and cost before the ultimate decision is finally reached…and would, in all likelihood, eliminate the ability of the sponsors to obtain the necessary signatures for a November ballot" was enough.

Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant wrote, "This conclusory and factually unsupported statement does not meet the burden rule 19 imposes."

The court did allow the petitioners to refile with the court with additional information or refile in district court.

The city has no comment at this time.

"So, the Supreme Court didn't rule, but rather gave the option to submit arguments on the venue or refill in district court," Timothy Webb, one of seven petitioners, said. "This was a surprise, as both parties were in agreement on the venue, and the court proceeded to oral arguments. We have filed in district court and awaiting the next steps in that process."