Utah Supreme Court denies appeal of Willie Grayeyes ruling

The Utah Supreme Court has denied the appeal of a Seventh District Court ruling on the residency of San Juan County Commissioner Willie Grayeyes.

While the September 30 ruling did not directly address the residency question, it effectively retains the finding of Judge Don Torgerson that Grayeyes is a resident of San Juan County and is eligible to serve as a Commissioner.

Judge Torgerson had made the ruling in January 2019 after a bench hearing on a lawsuit filed by Blanding resident Kelly Laws. Laws alleged that Greyeyes was not a resident of Utah and was not eligible to serve as Commissioner.

The justices held a one-hour hearing on the matter on March 8, 2021 and said afterward that they would “take this matter under advisement.” The ruling was released by the court on September 30, 2021.

During the March 8 hearing before the Justices, Peter Stirba, the attorney for Kelly Laws, said the election code requires “a principal place of residence in the particular district where you have been elected or otherwise you are not eligible.”

Stirba said of Grayeyes’s statement of residency when he filed to become a candidate that the “declaration of residency was false. There is no house on Piute Mesa.”

Alan Smith, an attorney for Greyeyes, said in the appeals hearing that Grayeyes had been registered to vote in San Juan County for more than 30 years.

Smith said it is ironic that the tremendous effort to keep Grayeyes off the ballot and disqualify him after he was elected is primarily because he was so active in San Juan County.

The September 30 ruling did not address the actual residency issues but stated that “Laws lacked standing to file suit in the first place because he has not alleged a sufficiently particularized injury.”

As a result, the ruling states, “We vacate the district court’s decision without assessing its correctness.”

In addition, the Justices affirmed Judge Torgerson’s ruling that Laws would not be required to pay Grayeyes’s attorney fees.

The appeals court stated that “because Laws did not file the suit in bad faith, Grayeyes’s claim did not fall within…an award of fees.”

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