HB 79: Private Attorneys
This bill passed the House with a vote of 57-13 but was not voted on in the Senate.
Several years ago, the Utah legislature enacted a law that prohibits the awarding of attorney’s fees under the private attorney general doctrine—a process by which a private citizen is compensated for performing duties normally expected of the elected Attorney General. Utah is now the only state that statutorily prohibits this process.
In a recent public policy brief, we explain the history of this issue, and why it is important to repeal the prohibition. When the government violates the rights of Utah citizens, the Attorney General would be duty bound to defend the government agency. As such, a private citizen who overturns the law through the courts should be compensated for representing and defending the public.
Representative Brian Greene has sponsored House Bill 79 to repeal this prohibition, thereby allowing appellate courts to once again consider the request for compensation in limited cases where the plaintiffs have successfully defended the important rights of the public.