Renn v. Utah State Bd. of Pardons

In Renn v. Utah State Bd. of Pardons, 904 P.2d 677, 682 (Utah 1995), a prisoner attempted to challenge the decision of the board of pardons "to postpone the hearing at which his parole release date is set." 904 P.2d at 682. At the outset of our consideration of Renn's petition, however, we were forced to grapple with a provision of the Utah Code that immunized decisions of the board of pardons from judicial review. Id. at 683. Despite the presence of the statute foreclosing judicial review, we relied upon this court's constitutional authority to issue extraordinary writs as a basis for reviewing Renn's petition for extraordinary relief. See id. at 680-84. In an attempt to reconcile our review of Renn's petition with the presence of the statutory prohibition against judicial review of board of pardons decisions, the Court stated that because the legislature has directed that there be no right of appeal from Board of Pardons actions, extraordinary relief may not be used as a substitute for a statutory appeal. Nevertheless, where there is a gross and flagrant abuse of discretion and fundamental principles of fairness are flouted, a court may, giving appropriate deference to legislative policy and the extraordinarily difficult duties of the Board of Pardons, intervene to correct such abuses by means of an appropriate extraordinary writ. (Id. at 683-84.) The Court noted that, "with the promulgation of Rule 65B of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, the common law forms and procedures for extraordinary writs were abolished in keeping with modern concepts of pleading and practice . . . ." Id. The Court concluded that the portion of Utah R. Civ. P. 65B covering the wrongful use of judicial authority or the failure to comply with a duty is properly conceived as including the "relief that was available at common law by writs of certiorari and mandamus," id. at 683, which were commonly used to review the actions of a lower tribunal. The fact that rule 65B has subsumed the common law writs does not, however, change the reality that "a court must look to the nature of the relief sought, the circumstances alleged in the petition, and the purpose of the type of writ sought in deciding whether to grant extraordinary relief." Id.