SALT LAKE CITY — A federal appeals court Tuesday dismissed former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s $80 million civil rights lawsuit against federal, state and county law enforcement officials.
According to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Shurtleff did not file an opening brief after obtaining two extensions of time since appealing earlier this year a district court’s decision to toss out the case.
Shurtleff said that he’s seeking to reinstate his appeal.
“Half of me is weary and wants to be done with the wrongful actions that plagued my life and I want to move on, but I’m dismayed with all the prosecutorial misconduct and law enforcement injustices in our country and feel compelled to do my part and push on,” he said.
A former three-term Republican attorney general, Shurtleff, along with his now ex-wife and two children, sued Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, FBI agents and state investigators in 2018, claiming they falsely charged and maliciously prosecuted him for public corruption in 2014.
“It was a frivolous lawsuit without merit. The process worked as it should,” Gill said Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney John Huber said the 10th Circuit “appropriately” terminated the appeal.
“The state of Utah’s former top law enforcement official cast strongly worded accusations against federal and state law enforcement agents in his lawsuit. In truth, these agents exercised professionalism and discretion in their investigation of Mr. Shurtleff,” Huber said in a statement.
Shurtleff’s lawsuit claimed investigators executed fraudulent and perjured search warrants to illegally seize his personal property, texts, phone records and emails in 2013 and 2014.
Agents wearing body armor and wielding assault rifles and other automatic and semi-automatic weapons used excessive force when they raided his Sandy home in June 2014, knowing Shurtleff was not there, his lawsuit says.
Gill eventually turned the prosecution of Shurtleff over to Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.
Rawlings dropped the charges against Shurtleff in July 2016, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made it more difficult to prosecute bribery, an inability to obtain key evidence from a federal investigation, and concerns about whether the former attorney general could get a fair trial in the high-profile case.
After giving Shurtleff a final chance last summer to make his case, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups threw out the lawsuit.
Though he found Shurtleff failed to show that investigators and prosecutors lied to obtain search warrants that led to criminal charges or that they are immune from being sued, Waddoups said that he had enough concerns about allegations in the complaint that he would allow time to submit more detailed arguments.
“Plaintiffs did not take advantage of this last shot,” the judge wrote last December in dismissing the case with prejudice, meaning the suit could not be refiled.
Waddoups wanted Shurtleff to submit a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of where prosecutors and investigators made false statements and how that would have affected a state judge’s decision to grant the search warrant.
But, the judge wrote, Shurtleff “did not follow the court’s instruction.”
While Shurtleff went through each paragraph, he ignored the court’s other directives and didn’t address the impact that excluding the allegedly untrue information, or including the allegedly omitted information, would have had on the state judge’s finding of probable cause for a warrant, Waddoups wrote.
Waddoups said Shurtleff failed to show officers caused harm to anyone through excessive force or that they were told to use excessive force. Instead, the claim rested on a theory that the defendants’ use of a SWAT team in and of itself amounts to excessive force, he said.
Shurtleff also didn’t prove that he was the victim of a malicious prosecution by showing investigators obtained the warrant based on false statements or reckless disregard for the truth.
“Because Mr. Shurtleff was arrested pursuant to a warrant, as a matter of law, there was probable cause to support his arrest, and as such, plaintiffs cannot establish the third element of their claim for malicious prosecution unless they first attack the information on which the warrant was based,” Waddoups wrote.