SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Today, the Utah House passed House Joint Resolution 2 (HJR 2), changing civil procedure rules to curtail the emergency power of the state courts contrary to recommendations from leading legal voices in Utah. The Resolution takes effect immediately. Going forward, the rule changes will prevent litigants from securing a preliminary injunction unless they can demonstrate the case has a substantial likelihood of success. And because HJR 2 is purposefully written to permit reconsideration of specific cases, it could be used by the State in an attempt to overturn the preliminary injunction (PI) currently blocking the state’s abortion trigger ban.
In addition to undermining fundamental democratic checks and balances, HJR 2 could have widespread impacts on emergency orders for a variety of family law cases. In particular, the changes will make it more difficult for family attorneys to secure an emergency court hearing to protect children from potentially harmful situations. Many attorneys, as well as representatives of the Utah State Bar and Utah Courts, highlighted the negative impacts of HJR 2 in public hearings, raising concerns about access to justice, increased financial costs, burdens on the courts, and targeting specific court cases with legislation.
A last-minute amendment to HJR 2 narrowed the possibility of reconsideration to only injunctions against state laws, which would include the abortion trigger ban and the transgender youth sports ban. This change further demonstrates that the Legislature is targeting these specific court cases, and other future challenges to legislative action, in an effort to limit all Utahns’ ability to access justice and protect our rights from government overreach.
“It should be alarming to everyone that legislators are willing to weaken the democratic structures of the state to change court orders that they disagree with,” said Karrie Galloway, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. “Instead of altering the rules in the middle of the game by rewriting the standards for Utah's courts, the Legislature should do its job and focus on providing more stability and security to Utah families.”
While anti-abortion legislators have insisted HJR 2 isn’t a direct response to the PI against the state’s trigger ban, sponsor Rep. Brady Brammer was quoted saying that “the trigger law was also a trigger to this,” during a committee hearing in January. In addition, the final amendment to HJR 2 appears deliberately designed to undermine the injunction against Utah’s abortion trigger ban while shielding other court cases from reconsideration.
The PI against the ban has been in effect since July. The State’s appeal from that injunction is currently pending before the Utah Supreme Court.
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