Burk Thueson is almost a free man. The homeless alcoholic who faced staying in jail until next spring after a Sandy justice court sentenced him to 450 days for a variety of alcohol-related violations, saw Judge Robert Adkins last Monday dismiss the eight Sandy cases holding him in jail.---
But Thueson has yet to be released, because, says his lawyer Clayton Simms, a mystery case keeps him in the Salt Lake Co. lock up. Thueson recently completed an in-jail rehab course at Oxbow. When he gets out, the real test begins as to whether he can stay sober and rebuild his life. Having done re-hab at Oxbow, if Thueson appears before a judge again on an alcohol-related charge, Simms fears he might well face jail time.
Simms says his motion, which was built in part on questioning the unconstitutionality of the lack of separation of the judicial and executive branches of Sandy City, was "successful." Sandy has separated the courts from the city council and Mayor Tom Dolan. But Sandy's communications director Trina Duerkson says what changes have been made were organizational. The courts never reported to the city's administration, she says, and the chart that showed they did in the city's 2008 budget has been changed. She noted the courts were being subsidized by the city but that they were largely self-funding.
One attorney City Weekly consulted on the Thueson result questioned whether Sandy could legally have its justice court separate from its municipal function. Sandy, he argued, isn't authorized by state law to enact a third branch of government. "Title 10 explicitly states there are two branches of government, so [by having the justice court separate] Sandy is operating outside of its legislative mandate." He described the Thueson motion as "a magic bullet" that "can make justice courts go away," something Thueson might agree with - if he could get out of jail.
The Sandy law suit was also cited by Taylorsville's city administration prior to its city council voting on Feb. 24 to take financial control of the courts from the city-appointed administrator to Judge Michael Kwan.
Simms says the motion "is having an impact" on justice courts. "It's making the judiciary more independent, which means everybody wins."