The Utah Court System is comprised of Justice Courts, Juvenile Courts, District courts, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
Utah Justice Courts
Justice Courts in Utah are local-level trial courts of original jurisdiction over class B and C misdemeanors, municipal ordinance violations, small claims cases and minor infractions. These courts are established at the county and municipal level. There are 108 judges serving the Justice Courts.
Utah Juvenile Courts
Utah's Juvenile Courts have limited jurisdiction over juvenile delinquency cases and those regarding child neglect and abuse. These courts also decide child custody cases, child support and visitations. There are 25 judges and one commissioner serving these courts.
Utah District Courts
Utah has 71 judges serving in eight judicial districts. These courts are trial courts and have general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. Types of cases heard in District Courts include criminal felonies, drug offenses, sex offenses, arson, robbery and some misdemeanors. These courts also oversee domestic relations cases, divorce, child custody and support, probate cases and adoptions.
Utah Court of Appeals
Utah's Legislature created the Court of Appeals in 1987, which consists of seven judges. This is the intermediate appellate court which hears appeals from Justice Courts, Juvenile Courts and District Courts.
Utah Supreme Court
As the court of last resort in the state, the Utah Supreme Court hears appeals from the Court of Appeals. Parties who wish to appeal the Supreme Court decisions must petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case. This court has five total justices.
Utah Notable Court Cases
A Cyprus High School teacher faced charges of accessing pornographic or indecent material on school property in 2016 after watching pornographic films in his classroom. A counselor from the school walked into Douglas M. Lind's classroom and caught him watching the films. Lind pleaded no contest to the charges, and the case will be dismissed if Lind pays a small fine and avoids legal trouble for one year.
A notable case regarding polygamy reached the U.S. court system on appeal after the Utah state court system upheld its law stating that such practices were illegal. Reality stars from the show "'Sister Wives" were put under investigation by local police after the show debuted for charges of bigamy, which is a felony in Utah. Although the husband was only legally married to one of the women in the house, the state's law defines bigamy as cohabitating with multiple people. One year later, the husband and his wives filed a case with the U.S. District Court stating the law infringed upon their constitutional rights, and the court agreed. The state is expected to appeal the decision, but today the law stands intact, making only obtaining multiple marriage licenses illegal.
In 1977, Utah passed a statute making same-sex marriage illegal, and in 1995 the Legislature passed a bill that banned recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages. Similar measures were also passed in 2004. In 2013, a group of same-sex couples filed charges against the state with the U.S. District Court stating the laws were unconstitutional, and the presiding justice agreed. The state was then granted an emergency stay pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the matter, which later determined that the right for same-sex couples to marry was a constitutional right.