Downs v. ThompsonAnnotate this Case
In answer to three questions certified to it by the federal district court the Supreme Court answered, among other things, that a Utah state district court does not have appellate jurisdiction to review the Utah County Board of Commissioners' decision upholding a fine levied under Utah Code 20A-11-1205.
Steven Downs, the Public Information Officer for the City of Orem, was fined for violating the Political Activities of Public Entities Act, specifically, section 20A-11-1205(1)(b), which stated that "a person may not send an email using the email of a public entity...to advocate for or against a ballot proposition." The Board of Commissioners voted to uphold the fine. Downs filed a petition in the federal district court challenging the ruling on several grounds. The federal court reserved ruling on a number of motions until receiving guidance on the three questions certified to the Supreme Court. The Court answered (1) section 20A-11-1205 does not convey appellate jurisdiction on state district courts; (2) the term "ballot proposition" as used in section 20A-11-1205(1) includes the entire referendum process; and (3) a "ballot proposition" as used in section 21A-11-1205(1) includes the entirety of the referendum process even if the challenged local government action is later found to be administrative in nature and therefore not subject to a referendum.