Patterson v. State, 20180108

CourtSupreme Court of Utah
Writing for the CourtPEARCE, JUSTICE
PartiesSCOTT KIRBY PATTERSON, Appellant, v. STATE OF UTAH, Appellee.
Docket Number20180108
Decision Date26 August 2021

2021 UT 52


STATE OF UTAH, Appellee.

No. 20180108

Supreme Court of Utah

August 26, 2021

Heard February 19, 2019

Reheard March 9, 2020

On Direct Appeal Second District, Farmington The Honorable Thomas L. Kay No. 160701113

Kathryn N. Nester, Scott K. Wilson, Benjamin C. McMurray, Nathan K. Phelps, Salt Lake City, for appellant

Sean D. Reyes, Att‘y Gen., Daniel W. Boyer, Erin Riley, Aaron Murphy, Shane D. Smith, Asst. Solics. Gen., Salt Lake City, for appellee

JUSTICE PEARCE authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE DURRANT, JUSTICE HIMONAS, and JUSTICE PETERSEN joined.




¶1 A jury convicted Scott Patterson of, among other things, aggravated sexual abuse of a child. The court of appeals affirmed that conviction. This court denied Patterson's petition for certiorari. More than three years after that denial, Patterson petitioned the district court for post-conviction relief from his criminal conviction and sentence. He petitioned pursuant to the Post-Conviction Remedies Act (PCRA), Utah Code §§ 78B-9-101-503, and the district court's "authority under the Constitution."

¶2 The State of Utah moved for summary judgment, arguing that Patterson had petitioned outside the time period the PCRA permits. See Utah Code § 78B-9-107. The State also argued that because the PCRA wholly regulates this court's authority to issue extraordinary writs that challenge a conviction, the PCRA's time-bar foreclosed any other avenue Patterson claimed the court could utilize to give him the relief he sought. The district court granted the State's motion.

¶3 Patterson appeals. Patterson posits that the PCRA's time limitations should be tolled. Alternatively, he argues that he can invoke the court's constitutional writ power outside the PCRA. And he claims that, to the extent the PCRA is interpreted to constrain this court from exercising its constitutional writ authority, the PCRA is unconstitutional.

¶4 We affirm the district court's determination that the PCRA time-bars Patterson's petition. We agree with Patterson that the people of Utah gave the courts the power to issue writs. We also conclude that while the Legislature-and we-can regulate the procedures we use with respect to writs, neither the Legislature- nor we-can do so in a fashion that violates a petitioner's constitutional rights. But we further conclude that Patterson has not demonstrated that application of the time-bar contained in the PCRA, that this court has incorporated into Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 65C, to Patterson's petition violates his rights under the Utah Constitution.

¶5 We therefore affirm the district court with respect to most of the claims Patterson raises. We note, however, that the district court did not address Patterson's arguments that the PCRA's time bar did not apply to the two claims he argues are based on newly discovered evidence. We remand, without comment on the merit of those arguments, to permit the district court to address them.


¶6 In 2010, a jury convicted Scott Kirby Patterson of two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and two counts of lewdness involving a child. The court of appeals addressed the underlying facts of that case in its opinion upholding Patterson's conviction. State v. Patterson, 2013 UT App 11, 294 P.3d 662. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the court of appeals should blush because we shamelessly lift our recitation of the pertinent facts from that opinion:

Patterson's convictions arose out of a ten-month period beginning in February 2008, during which he abused his step-daughter (Child), while married to Child's mother (Mother). Child disclosed the abuse to Mother on the first night that it happened. Mother confronted Patterson in front of Child that night, and he denied the allegations
Shortly after Christmas that year, Mother confronted Patterson again after realizing that both Child's and Patterson's behavior had changed over the last few months and that the changes had started after Child accused Patterson of abuse in February. On December 27, 2008 Patterson admitted to Mother that he had molested Child twice. Mother immediately planned to move out of the house and filed for divorce on December 29, and in the process she called an ecclesiastical leader from her church (Bishop) to explain the situation and ask for his help. On February 9 2009, Patterson was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and two counts of lewdness involving a child
Patterson also reached out to Bishop for help, meeting him at his office several months after Mother moved out. Patterson later described his meeting with Bishop as "confidential clergy-penitent communication" that involved "discussions about confession in the church." Nonetheless, after Patterson was charged, he offered Bishop's name as a character reference to the medical professional (Doctor) retained by his trial counsel to prepare a psychosexual evaluation of Patterson; the evaluation was to be used in plea negotiations and, if necessary, during sentencing. The psychosexual evaluation contains Bishop's statement to Doctor that Patterson "told [him] how sorry he was for what he has done." Because of this statement in the psychosexual evaluation, the State, during a recess in the middle of the trial and before Patterson had testified, indicated to Patterson's trial counsel that the State would use Patterson's communication with Bishop to impeach Patterson's testimony denying the abuse. Patterson decided to heed his trial counsel's advice and not testify, even though both he and his trial counsel later testified that they were prepared for him to take the stand.
At trial, the defense posed the theory that Child's allegations were fabricated and used as leverage by a "very vindictive" Mother during her and Patterson's divorce. Throughout the trial, testimony was elicited from both Mother and Child that suggested Patterson was an angry person, who could be frightening at times. Mother's testimony also described some of the details of their divorce and indicated that Patterson got most of the assets because she did not "want to deal with him anymore." Defense counsel used these comments to support the theory that Child is a liar and that Mother convinced Child to fabricate the charges out of bitterness and to gain leverage in the divorce. One of the detectives (Detective) present during Child's interview at the Children's Justice Center (CJC) also testified at trial. Detective's testimony addressed the consistency between Child's trial testimony and her CJC interview.

Id. ¶¶ 2-5 (second alteration in original) (footnotes omitted).

¶7 A jury convicted Patterson on all four counts. The district court sentenced him to consecutive terms of fifteen years to life for the felony convictions. After conviction, Patterson obtained new counsel, including Edwin Wall, and appealed the convictions. In January of 2013, the court of appeals affirmed Patterson's conviction. Id. ¶ 1. Patterson then petitioned this court for a writ of certiorari, which we denied.

¶8 In May 2013, six days after this court denied Patterson's petition for certiorari, Wall wrote a letter to Patterson to explain his options in the wake of the denial of certiorari. In the letter, Wall advised Patterson that "to challenge the state criminal conviction, [Patterson] may file a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus . . . or [he] may pursue post-conviction relief through Rule 65C of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, or both." Wall stated, "In order to give you an idea as to what might be done . . . . I will discuss both the proceedings for federal habeas and those for state post-conviction relief so that you may consider how you wish to proceed."

¶9 Wall then explained the federal habeas process. Wall detailed,

The federal court cannot grant relief on habeas corpus claims unless [the] Utah Supreme Court has first had an opportunity to rule on the same federal claims. This is called exhaustion of state court remedies. . . . The Supreme Court explained the exhaustion requirement in O'Sullivan v. Boerckel. . . . You have now exhausted your state court remedies.

¶10 Wall further explained that the PCRA "sets forth the manner and extent to which a person may challenge the legality of a criminal conviction and sentence after the conviction and sentence have been affirmed in a direct appeal . . . ." He then advised Patterson that the PCRA requires that a petitioner file within one year after the cause of action accrued. Wall elaborated, "This means[, ] Scott[, ] [you] must file your petition within one year of May 16, 2013, or it will be barred." Wall explained how post-conviction proceedings work and confessed that he was not sure what Patterson's PCRA claims would be. He then concluded by stating, "Regardless of how you decide to take your next step, I adamantly urge you to seek relief at the very least through a federal habeas petition."

¶11 In August of 2014, Patterson filed a pro se federal habeas petition in federal district court. That court appointed Patterson counsel on October 22, 2015, and the Office of the Federal Public Defender (federal attorneys) entered an appearance for Patterson on November 2, 2015. On October 28, 2016, more than three years after Patterson's direct appeal ended, Patterson filed a state petition for post-conviction relief. Patterson then filed this amended petition on November 2, 2016.

¶12 In his amended petition, Patterson seeks "postconviction relief from his conviction and sentence pursuant to the Postconviction Remedies Act (Utah Code Ann. § 78B-9-101 et seq.) and [the] court's authority under the Utah Constitution." Patterson's petition includes a section entitled "Grounds...

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