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Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance v. San Juan County Comm’n, 2021 UT 6 (Feb. 25, 2021), Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Kane County Comm’n, 2021 UT 7 (Feb. 25, 2021)

Feb 25, 2021

In these two related appeals, the Utah Supreme Court held that Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance both had standing to assert and had sufficiently pled a claim against San Juan and Kane County for violation of Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act based on meetings the County Commissions had with Ryan Zinke, the United States Secretary of the Interior.  The supreme court first clarified the distinction between standing and the merits of a claim.  The district court erred in conflating the two when it held that SWUA lacked standing because the meetings with Secretary Zinke were not subject to the Open and Public Meetings Act, such that SWUA and its members were not denied any rights under the Act.  The court additionally held that the district court erred in dismissing SWUA’s claims under Rule 12(b)(6).  Without deciding the proper interpretation of the term “meeting,” the court held that SWUA had provided fair notice of the basis of its claim.  “In the context of the Act, pleadings will provide defendants with adequate notice when they specifically identify the meeting or meetings at issue and contain ‘reliable indicia that lead to a strong inference’ that ‘ matters’ under the public body’s jurisdiction were discussed.”