State v. Johnson (1981)

In State v. Johnson, 635 P.2d 36, 38 (Utah 1981), the Court held that a criminal defendant who reasonably relied on his attorney's assurance that an appeal would be timely filed was unconstitutionally denied his right to appeal his conviction. The Court then established a procedural mechanism to restore this right in Johnson's case and in future situations in which a defendant was prevented from bringing a timely appeal through no fault of his own. The Court directed defendants to file a motion for resentencing in the trial court so that the thirty-day time period for bringing an appeal set forth in rule 4(a) of the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure would begin to run anew. Id. at 38. The Court examined other jurisdictions that had, by narrowly expanding the common law writ of error coram nobis, permitted "'resentencing nunc pro tunc upon the previous finding of guilt'" as a mechanism for restoring the time frame for filing an appeal where the right to appeal had been denied. 635 P.2d at 38. Under Utah common law, coram nobis had been available to "vacate a judgment of conviction on the basis of facts which, without defendant's fault, did not appear on the face of the record and as to which defendant was without other remedy." Id. The Court followed other courts in relying on coram nobis as a basis for considering "extra-record facts" to establish the denial of the right to appeal and vacate a judgment, after which the defendant would be resentenced to establish a new appeal time frame. Id. In sum, the Court instructed district courts to resentence criminal defendants nunc pro tunc when those defendants were prevented from bringing timely appeals through no fault of their own. Under Johnson, nunc pro tunc resentencing restarted the appeal clock and provided defendants with an opportunity to bring direct appeals of their convictions. Id.