SALT LAKE CITY -- The Ogden Trece Injunction is before the Utah Supreme Court, and the high court's questions Tuesday centered on how you legally serve notice on an organization that's not exactly legal.
The justices wondered if Ogden's oldest street gang has anything resembling "officers or managing agents" typical to organizations hit with injunctions.
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith answered that Ogden Trece doesn't have a president or board of directors, but leaders labeled "shot-callers," who constantly change as members quit, go to prison or die. "The membership of any gang is fluid."
As to whether the lack of a place of business makes an injunction unwieldy, Smith said, "Their place of business is the entire city of Ogden.
"They hold themselves out as an entity, they commit crimes in the name of the gang. But the fact they hide the identity of the directors, of the shot-callers, shouldn't negate the use of the injunction."
The court took the case under advisement. A decision is expected in a matter of months.
The injunction is designed to essentially keep Treces (pronounced trace-ays) off the streets. It's the first of its kind in Utah and one of only a few in place in the country, although they have been commonly used in California and upheld by the courts there for 20 years.
Critics have challenged the injunction as flawed constitutionally. In effect for nearly three years now, it bans Treces from associating with one another in public or even being in the vicinity of guns, drugs or alcohol in public. It sets an 11 p.m. curfew for Trece's estimated 300-plus members.
The loose organizational style of the gang means many of its alleged members did not get legally adequate notice of the injunction, argued David Reymann, cooperating attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Utah chapter in bringing the appeal along with several Ogden defense attorneys.
He stressed to the justices that he, his law firm, the ACLU and Ogden lawyers Randy Richards and Mike Studebaker are not representing the gang, but individual alleged members accused in the injunction.
The 45-minute hearing Tuesday never got to the appeal's claims that the injunction is unconstitutionally vague and "overbroad."
The justices have been studying the appeal since last fall. Attorneys for both sides said afterward that questions from an appellate court during oral arguments almost never predict how the court will rule.
Police and prosecutors say arrests under the injunction have led to a slump in Trece activity, especially regarding graffiti, and caused other Ogden gangs to be less active out of concern they may be next.
The appeal argues that the injunction's definitions of a gang member are loose enough to fit potentially almost any Ogden resident.
And it's possible to be named to the Ogden Metro Gang Unit's gang database and subject to the injunction without being convicted of a crime, say critics.
The 300-plus-page injunction logs Trece crimes dating back five years or more, including homicides, drive-by shootings, burglaries, assaults, drug trafficking and an auto theft ring.