Dave Blackham case cleared to go to trial
By Doug Lowe
MANTI—Mt. Pleasant’s former mayor David Blackham will have his day in court.
According to Judge Wallace Lee of the 6th District Court, Blackham’s case against several city council members accused of defaming him, and hurting him in other ways, may proceed to a jury trial—without the defamation charge that Lee has dismissed.
Upon hearing that Judge Lee had cleared his suit for trial, Blackham said, “I am not looking to get a jury to award me lots of money. What I want is to clear my good name, to have my legal expenses covered, to hear apologies from those who wronged me and to see the two council members, who still occupy seats on council, to resign.”
Back in January, after hearing oral argument from both side, Lee promised to render, within the next 60 days, his decision on a motion to dismiss, entered by the city’s attorney, Heather White, an attorney with the Salt Lake City law firm of Snow, Christensen and Martineau.
On Jan. 29, White argued that all 10 of the “causes of action” filed against the city and specific council members in Blackham’s suit should be dismissed for all parties because the Utah government immunity act protected the city government as well as its council members.
During his oral arguments that day, Blackham’s attorney, Steve Tycksen, of Tycksen and Shattuck in Draper, admitted that White’s assertion of governmental immunity might conceivably shield the city government from much of the responsibility for injuring Blackham, but could not be applied to the named council members as individuals because their problematic actions were not committed or carried out in any official capacity.
A little over two weeks ago, on Monday, Feb. 24, Judge Lee released his ruling on White’s motion to dismiss, and agreed with her legal arguments completely, when it came to the city being protected by the state’s government immunity act. However, in the case of the individual council members, Judge Lee decided to dismiss only three of Blackham’s allegations.
In the order, Judge Lee points out that law requires him to not rule on the facts in most of Blackham’s claims, but to place the responsibility for factual determination in the hands of a jury.
While dismissing all 10 causes of action against the city, Judge Lee only dismisses three of the total as applied to the individual council members. A number of the seven causes of action, which Lee cleared to go to a jury, assert that Blackham’s privacy was invaded in one way or another.
In addition, Blackham’s suit claims he was portrayed to the public in a false light to make him appear to be in the wrong. It also claims the council members breached a contract with Blackham, failed to deal in good faith with him, and treated him unfairly.
What the jury will end up deciding is anyone’s guess. And, according to Blackham, that case does not necessarily have to go to trial at all.