University of Utah v. Shurtleff
Utah Supreme Court
2006 UT 51, 144 P.3d 1109 (2006)
The University of Utah (plaintiff) was created by the Utah legislature by statute in 1892. The legislature designated the university as a public corporation and vested management of the university in a Board of Regents. The Board of Regents was given the authority to manage the university’s daily operations and enact regulations governing the conduct of students, faculty, and staff. The Board of Regents has delegated authority to the university president, as allowed by state law, to issue policies as necessary to maintain a safe, efficient, and orderly campus. One such policy issued by the university is a firearms policy that prohibited students, faculty, and staff from carrying firearms on campus. In 2001, Utah Attorney General Shurtleff (defendant) issued an opinion finding that a state agency rule that prohibited state employees from carrying firearms in state facilities violated Utah law. The university subsequently filed a lawsuit against Shurtleff, seeking a declaratory judgment that its firearms policy was not in conflict with state law, or in the alternative, that the Utah Constitution guaranteed the university institutional autonomy sufficient to allow it to enforce its firearms policy in spite of state law. Specifically, the Utah Constitution provided (1) that the general control and supervision of the state’s higher education system will be provided for by statute; and (2) confirmed all rights, immunities, franchises, and endowments established or recognized by the constitution for public universities. The trial court granted summary judgment to the university, finding that the university’s firearms policy was not in violation of state law. Shurtleff appealed. In the interim, the legislature enacted a statute that prohibited state or local authorities from enacting or enforcing an ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy that restricts the possession of firearms on either public or private property. The definition of local authorities specifically included state institutions of higher education. It became clear, at this point, that the university’s firearms policy violated the new statute. Both the university and Shurtleff asked the Utah Supreme Court to review the university’s constitutional claim, an issue the trial court had not reached.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Parrish, J.)
Dissent (Durham, C.J.)
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