The high court has agreed to hear an appeal of 2nd District Court Judge Noel Hyde’s Aug. 13 ruling that Gibson has standing to challenge public release of the police probe, focused on his duties as commissioner. Journalist Cathy McKitrick, who filed a public records request seeking release of the investigation, argues that Gibson doesn’t have standing and she filed an appeal on Sept. 30 asking the Utah Supreme Court to review the Aug. 13 decision.
The Supreme Court agreed last Wednesday to consider the matter, according to online docket information for the case, but didn’t elaborate on the decision.
Jeremy Brodis, one of the lawyers representing McKitrick, echoed that, saying the court offered no viewpoint in agreeing to hear the matter. He noted, however, that the court receives many appeals and can’t hear them all. “This is one that’s a standing issue. It’s sort of a threshold issue,” Brodis said.
The police probe, sought by Weber County officials in late 2017 and finished in early 2018, led to no charges of wrongdoing against Gibson, now the commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. All along he has maintained his innocence and said political foes were behind the matter. He reiterated that in a message to The Standard-Examiner after news of the Supreme Court’s decision came out and said his legal efforts are a bid at defending himself.
“A desperate political opponent tried to drag my family and me through the mud,” said Gibson, without naming names. “I was cleared by multiple agencies, I’m taking a stand.”
At issue is whether Gibson has the right under state law to sue to block release of the investigation.
In response to McKitrick’s request for a copy of the probe, also sought by The Standard-Examiner, the Ogden Records Review Board on Sept. 6, 2018, called for release of the document with certain elements redacted. Gibson, in turn, sued the review board in 2nd District Court on Oct. 31, 2018, to block the release, arguing that release of the probe would be an unwarranted invasion of his privacy.
After the former county official sued, however, McKitrick got involved in the case as an intervenor. She subsequently filed a motion for dismissal of Gibson’s suit based on her contention that state law contains no provision giving him leeway to challenge the review board decision.
Hyde, in upholding Gibson’s right to sue, cited a provision of the state’s public records law that gives judges leeway to factor “privacy interests” in handling cases related to records requests.
If the Supreme Court upholds Hyde’s decision, Gibson’s challenge to release of the probe would continue in Hyde’s court. If the decision reverses Hyde’s decision, ruling Gibson doesn’t have standing to sue, Gibson’s challenge would likely fizzle, according to Brodis.
The Supreme Court will likely seek written arguments from each side in the matter and then oral arguments, according to Brodis. It’s “anyone’s guess” how long the process could take.