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Home > Alerts & Updates > 2014 Bill Tracking Page > HB 318: Restoring Jury Trials for Innocent Parents

House sponsor,
LaVar Christensen

Senate sponsor, Howard Stephenson
House Bill 318 S1: Restoring Jury Trials for Innocent Parents

by statuator LaVar Christensen, house district 32, "Republican", and statutator Howard Stephenson, senate district 11, "Republican".

Summary: This bill would allow parents, including gun owners, to request and receive a trial by jury prior to having their parental rights terminated. HB 318 is a first step toward restoring justice to Utah's corrupt courtrooms, and in providing substantive due process for innocent gun owners.

Status: This bill passed the house (46 yeas, 27 nays, 2 absent/not voting), Senate Monarch Wayne Niederhauser's hand-picked judiciary, law [sic] enforcement, and criminal justice committee returned it to the rules committee, where it died.

UT Gun Rights supports this bill.  See its bill status page.  To contact your statutators, click here.

"REFRESH" this page ("F-5" on most browsers) to see latest version.  Last updated: 3/14/14 at 1:05a.

How could we possibly go wrong giving one person such awesome power?
The Details...

One Court Dictator Can Ruin YOUR Life

In Utah, your children can be seized from you, placed in a foster home, and your rights as a parent could be forever terminated without ever being convicted of a crime.  This can all be done by the decision of one judge (sometimes with help from that judge's bureaucratic "court commissioner").

One unaccountable* court dictator holds the awesome power to destroy your life, and the lives of your children.  And no impartial jury of your peers can currently intervene to save you.

*Note: The governor, without any substantive review or confirmation process, hand-picks all voting members of "judicial nominating commissions." These commissions select judicial candidates, the governor selects his favorite, and his favorite is confirmed by the state senate.  The "judicial council" selects court commissioners, who are deemed "quasi-judicial officers of courts of record".  Sources: Utah Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 8, and state statutes 20A-12-201, 78A-5-107, 78A-10-103, 78A-10-105, 78A-10-202, and 78A-10-204.  In order for voters to remove a judge, over 50 percent of them must be sufficiently angry at him/her to vote "no" on his/her judicial retention election.  Imagine how many lives a judge could destroy before half the voters voted "no"?

Tragically, such abuse happens regularly in Utah, and all too often one or both parents is unjustly targeted because he/she is a gun owner.  Many Utah judges and court commissioners harbor extreme statist views — to include an anti-gun agenda — and some seem to enjoy harassing and terrorizing gun owners.

Judges are supposed to be courtroom referees, ensuring that the jury receives as much pertinent information as possible, and that the prosecution and defense have the opportunity to present such information.  A judge is NOT supposed to be jury and the executioner for the state agenda.

Vague Termination Criteria

The statutory criteria these court dictators utilize to tear parents from their children includes vaguely defined words like "abuse," "neglect," and "educational neglect," which can be twisted to mean nearly anything.  Critically examine state statute 78A-6-105 as an example.

But the most grievous innovation of all, is the alarming extension of the power of courts of admiralty. In these courts, one judge presides alone! No juries have any concern there! The law and the fact are both to be decided by the same single judge." — John Adams
And according to state statute 78A-6-507, all the court dictator has to decide is that the parents have violated any one of these vague definitions.  No actual crime need be proven.  So guess whose "interests" will be reflected in that decision?

Low Burdens of Proof

In nightmarish, but real, scenarios, accused parents not only face a court dictator, but according to state statute 78A-6-314(2)(b), their petition to have their children returned to them can be denied by the lowest threshold of legal protection: "preponderance of the evidence."  In other words, the court dictator gets to decide if you are an unfit parent by the lowest standard of evidence.

Prima facie "evidence" of your parental unfitness includes failing to "comply with a court approved child and family plan in whole or in part" (78A-6-314(2)(c)(ii)).  And what is the "court plan"?  Whatever the court dictator wanted it to be, because he/she is often part of the "treatment plan team."
Source: "Therapeutic Jurisprudence: Embracing a Tainted Ideal," by former Utah juvenile court judge, Arthur G. Christean, Jan. 2002.

These "court plans" can include unreasonable restrictions on firearms.  See discussion of the statutory environment that helps to encourage such restrictions on pages 6 and 7 of the 2013 Utah Government Corruption Report and the threat briefing for this year's SB 35, ironically being sponsored by the senate sponsor of this bill, statutator Howard Stephenson).

If the state files a petition to permanently terminate your parental rights, the court dictator can approve it based upon "clear and convincing evidence" (see bill lines 61-62), which again means whatever the dictator thinks it is; including your failure to abide by his/her "court plan".

Keep in mind that native Americans on reservations at least enjoy the higher protection of "beyond a reasonable doubt" before their parental rights can be terminated.  Learn more about the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act.

Note: State proponents of this sham termination process sometimes point to state statute 78A-6-503.  Unfortunately, while this statute contains lofty, flowery language, it offers no substantive safeguards for accused parents, and no substantive restriction upon the power of the court dictator.

Forget all this talk about proofs and juries, comrade!  The state is never wrong!
System is Openly-Hostile to Gun Owners

As we outlined in our threat assessment of SB 35, the "child welfare system" is designed to be hostile toward gun owners.

For example, according to "administrative rule" R512-202-2, Utah's Child and Family Services agency can intervene in "homes where there are... loaded weapons within the reach of the child..."

If, therefore, your 17-year old minor child ever has access to a loaded firearm, a state caseworker could use that to build the case that you are guilty of "child endangerment," an abuser, and therefore subject to state intervention; potentially by having your child seized from you.

And if your children are sent to foster care homes, according to "administrative rule" R501-12, foster parents who do not have a concealed carry "permit," and who do not have their firearm on their person, must essentially live in a disarmed, or criminally-vulnerable, home environment.

The underlying philosophy of the state is clear: foster parents must be unarmed, and if they are unarmed, natural parents should likewise be unarmed.

If a court dictator terminates your parental rights, such decisions can be utilized by other bureaucratic processes to further destroy your right to keep and bear arms.  For example, as we pointed out with our threat assessment of last year's SB 80, any jury-less court decision can be sufficient grounds for the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification to revoke that person's concealed carry permit.

Time to rein in Utah's court dictators. Click picture to enlarge.
How this Bill Could Be Improved

This bill could be substantively improved by the following:

1) Require that parents be proven guilty, by an IMPARTIAL JURY, of actual, serious, and purposeful criminal behavior or unfitness that renders them permanently unable to serve as parents, before their children can be permanently removed.  Before any accused loses a fundamental right, he/she must be found guilty (not innocent) through substantive due process, which includes this bedrock assurance.  See "Why Are Jury Trials Crucial to Your Freedom?" by Accountability Utah.

2) Require that the state's burden of proof be raised to the highest standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" in permanent termination cases, as is the case with native American families living on Indian nation reservations.  Accused Utah parents should enjoy the same protections as native Americans.

3) Remove the filing fee in lines 56-57 for parents who request a jury trial in civil cases.  Innocent parents, including indigent ones, should not have to pay to receive substantive due process.

4) Require the unanimous opinion of 12 jurors to convict a parent of a crime and to terminate his/her parental rights.  Article 1, section 10 of the Utah state constitution foolishly empowers the state legislature to limit the number of jurors in non-capital cases.  Forever losing one's children is a fate worse than death.

The fact that these improvements are NOT already statute is further evidence of the corrupt and degenerate state of Utah's governmental affairs.

Yeah, But Is this REALLY a "Gun Rights" Issue???

Is it preferable for one individual, employed by the state and representing the state's interests, to determine the fate of an entire family?  What if the decision to terminate is an unjust one?  The consequences for that family could arguably be worse than a death sentence.

If it is acceptable to grant such awesome power to one individual in parental termination cases, then, to follow the logic, it should be acceptable for one individual to determine the fate of gun owners in any other situation.

In fact, Utah court dictators are currently empowered to involuntarily commit gun owners to mental institutions; thereby terminating their ability to keep and bear arms. They are likewise empowered to terminate concealed carry "permits" for individuals accused of mental illness or accused of violating statute. Consider discussion of last year's SB 80.

UT Gun Rights argues that one individual's (i.e. the court dictator's) employment, biases, intentions, aspirations, definitions of right and wrong, lifestyle choices, etc., are dangerously insufficient where such finality is concerned. The risk of relying upon one person's limited experiences and motivations is better mitigated by dispersing such power amongst many (the unanimous verdict of 12 is traditional) individuals who are less compromised to the prosecutorial objectives of the state.

What makes trial by an impartial jury the business of UT Gun Rights? This right was arguably so fundamental, its absence "in many cases" was listed as a cause for separation in the unanimous Declaration of Independence. To abandon it in cases such as these would be akin to arguing that the right to keep and bear arms only exists if one state employee says it does on any given day.

Are there problems with the educational level of many jury members? Certainly. American revolutionaries contemplated the same dilemmas:

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." — Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, September 28, 1820 (see The Founders’ Almanac, by Matthew Spalding, The Heritage Foundation, 2002, p. 180)

Appropriate Action: Contact The Two People Who Own the Statutarium ("legislature")

As the 2013 Utah Government Corruption Report amply demonstrates, two monarchs abuse and dominate the house and senate and work together to destroy your rights: house speaker Rebecca Lockhart and senate president Wayne Niederhauser. Contrary to what you learned in civics class, your house and senate statutators merely serve their gun control agenda.

How can two people possibly exercise such control? As one example, the house speaker and senate president alone appoint and remove EVERY member of EVERY committee. Lockhart and Niederhauser are empowered to do this without any review or confirmation process.
Sources: “The general duties of the Speaker are to:... appoint the members of committees…” (House Rules 1-3-102. Duties of the speaker) and “The general duties of the president are to:… appoint the members of committees…” (SR1-3-102. Duties of the president)

Consider the vast implications of this incredible power! No bill may be voted on in the house or senate without going through a committee. As a result, bills live or die almost entirely upon the calculated orders of these two monarchs.

Their powers are so extreme, no provision exists in the house or senate rules to fire the monarchs before their two-year terms are over. They lord over each body, trade favors, and sell your rights; all while pretending that decisions are made by the will of the majority instead of their monarchial authority.

The political buck stops with Lockhart and Niederhauser for failing to advance positive gun owner bills, and for every gun control bill enacted. Until more statutators are motivated to oppose the iron fists of the monarchs’ near absolute power, your rights will continue to be undermined.

Because your house and senate statutators merely serve their will and agenda, contacting them is often just a courtesy call.  Only two people hold the power over Utah's statutarium ("legislature"):

For House Monarchess Rebecca Lockhart's contact information (and the rest of the house statutators), click here.  For Senate Monarch Wayne Niederhauser's contact information (and the rest of the senate statutators), click here


Click here to go back to The 2014 Bill Tracking Page: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.



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