SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Supreme Court on Friday threw out Weber County's anti-gang injunction.
A first for Utah, the three-year-old injunction banned members of Ogden Trece from associating with one another in public or even being in the vicinity of guns, drugs or alcohol in public. It had set an 11 p.m. curfew for Trece's estimated 350-plus members.
The Weber County Attorney's Office vowed to continue with the injunction -- once the flaws delineated Friday are ironed out -- even if it means dismissing the estimated 300 arrests it led to.
"We will absolutely continue suing Ogden Trece," said Deputy Weber County Attorney Branden Miles, one of the architects of the 331-page injunction.
Assessing the arrests and convictions made under the injunction is to come.
"It's possible there will be dismissals," Miles said. "You can't be held to violate an order that is not validly issued. If we have to go back and deal with that, then I guess we will."
The high court's 19-page ruling said the injunction is voided because leaders of the gang or a "managing or general agent" of the gang were not identified and served with the injunction.
Police and prosecutors have said such leadership is not readily known, but Lt. Scott Conley, head of the Ogden Metro Gang Unit, said 318, or more than 80 percent of the gang, have been served with the injunction.
Members have to be served with the injunction before they can be found in violation. It applies only to Ogden.
But because of the high court ruling, Conley said Friday afternoon, "We will immediately suspend all enforcement activities in reference to the injunction until further notice."
In their arguments to the Utah Supreme Court earlier this year, Trece lawyers and the ACLU of Utah called the injunction unconstitutionally "overbroad" with definitions of a gang member loose enough to fit almost any Ogden resident. They also contested the public notice questions the court ruled on Friday.
They trumpeted the court's unanimous, 5-0 ruling as a major victory.
"We are thrilled that the court vacated this misguided, overbroad, and constitutionally suspect law enforcement tactic and recognized that the process Weber County used to obtain the injunction was fundamentally flawed," David Reymann, a cooperating attorney with the Utah ACLU of Utah, said in a news release.
"The Constitution demands that parties whose rights will be affected must be given a meaningful day in court, and that simply did not happen in this case."
"It is a victory for every Utahn's rights that this overreaching and overbroad injunction is no longer on the books," said John Mejia, legal director of the Utah ACLU.
"Because the court did not reach the merits of the injunction, though, this may only be the beginning of a longer fight. You can be certain that, if Weber County tries again to push for this kind of injunction, we will be on the other side pushing back."
Miles depicted the court's decision as less than dramatic.
"This ruling, while slightly disappointing, is not the be all and end all of this issue," he said. "They did not say Trece could not be attacked or sued. This is just a technical ruling on civil procedure ... they very clearly said you can sue this gang."
He pointed to one paragraph in particular on Page 13 of the ruling where the justices wrote: "... we have no difficulty concluding that Trece transacted its business under a common name ... Because Trece transacts business under a common name, it is an unincorporated association amenable to suit."
Randy Richards, an Ogden lawyer representing Treces against the injunction and involved with the appeal decided Friday, said he expects another appeal fight before the high court on the lingering constitutional questions.
The high court didn't have to weigh those issues once it found the problems with the notification procedures for the injunction.
"It will likely be a matter of years," Richards said.
In the meantime, he said he will be telling his clients they can stay out past 11 p.m. and are free to associate in public.
Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister.