State of Utah v. Zachariah E. Clark

2011 UT 23
Filed April 29, 2011

The Utah Supreme Court held that the victims in a criminal case had no standing to appeal a restitution order because at the time they filed their appeal there was not statute in place that gave them the right to appeal.

T.C. and N.C. were sexually abused by their adopted older brother, Zachariah E. Clark. At sentencing, the defendant was ordered to pay for the victims’ therapy. However, the defendant was also sentenced to prison and had no means to pay the costs. As allowed by Utah statute, the victims requested that the costs be paid by DCFS because DCFS was the state agency which enabled Mr. Clark’s adoption into the family. DCFS was subsequently able to show that it was exempt under the statue because it had not been provided funds by the legislature to pay for the treatment of victims such as T.C. and N.C. The trial court therefore vacated the restitution order. The victims appealed to the Utah Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court held that the victims did not have standing to appeal the order. Victims have the right to appeal only where it has been specifically granted by legislation. Utah Code section 77-38-11(2)(b) gave victims “the right to appeal rulings on motions related to their rights as a victim.” But an amendment which became effective on May 12, 2009 removed that right. A year later, on May 11, 2010, the legislature enacted another amendment which reinstated the right. The victims filed their appeal on June 19, 2009. At the time that they did so there was no statute in place which gave them the right to appeal the ruling. Matters of procedure are governed by the law in effect at the time the procedural act takes place, not by the law in effect at the time the crime was committed. Even thought repealing the law for one year may have been an oversight on the part of the legislature, courts have not power to extend statutes beyond what is specifically designated by the legislature.