Utah Court of Appeals

October 10, 2019
The Great Hall

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On Thursday, October 10 at 11:30 a.m., Southern Utah University and A.P.E.X. Events hosted a live Utah Court of Appeals session in the Great Hall in the Hunter Conference Center. Cases presented: Rojas v. Montoya and UPTHA v. Workforce, and the judges presiding: Gregory K. Orme, Diana Hagen, and David N. Mortensen.

Rojas v Montoya

A brief introduction to Rojas v. Montoya: Derrick Montoya owns the Valerie’s Taco Shop restaurant located within the Flying J Truck Stop in Beaver, Utah. His sister, Appellant Valerie Swanson, owns the rest of the Valerie’s Taco Shop chain of restaurants, primarily located in California. In early 2013, Mr. Montoya reached an oral agreement with Appellee Alfredo Rojas for Mr. Rojas to manage Mr. Montoya’s restaurant. They disagree as to the nature and terms of their agreement, and with respect to the events that led to Mr. Rojas’ subsequent removal from his managerial position on March 1, 2015. Unhappy with his removal, Mr. Rojas filed suit against Mr. Montoya and Ms. Swanson.

UPTHA v Workforce

A brief introduction to UPTHA v. Workforce: The question in this case is whether Petitioner (the Employer) discharged (the Claimant) from her employment for just cause under the Utah Employment Security Act. The Employer argues she was, but the substantial evidence shows otherwise. The decision of the Workforce Appeals Board (the Board) should be upheld because the weight of the evidence shows the Employer did not meet the elements of culpability, knowledge, and control to establish a discharge with just cause.

The Judges

Judge Gregory K. Orme was appointed to the Utah Court of Appeals by Gov. Norman H. Bangerter in January 1987, when the court was first established. He has served on the court for over thirty years and is the court's Presiding Judge.

Judge Diana Hagen was appointed to the Utah Court of Appeals in June 2017 by Governor Gary R. Herbert. Prior to her appointment, Judge Hagen was the First Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Utah.

Judge David N. Mortensen was appointed to the Utah Court of Appeals in May 2016 by Gov. Gary M. Herbert. Prior to his appointment, Judge Mortensen served as a trial judge in the Fourth District Court for almost ten years.



As part of the 2019-2020 season, A.P.E.X. Events continued the tradition of hosting a live Utah Court of Appeals session on October 10th, 2019.This year's presiding judges were David N. Mortensen, Diana Hagen, and the court's Presiding Judge, Gregory K. Orme, who has served on the Utah Court of Appeals for over thirty years.

Two cases were presented: Rojas v. Montoya, in which an employee filed suit after being fired from his managerial position at a restaurant; and UPTHA v. Workforce, where an employer is being questioned over whether or not the dismissal of an employee had just cause. The case presented during the A.P.E.X. hour was Rojas v. Montoya. The session began with Judge Orme explaining to the audience the protocol that is observed during a normal court hearing and the process that the hearing follows; each side had fifteen minutes to present their argument, and if they had leftover time, it would be added to the rebuttal. The judges then called to the stand the case of Rojas v. Montoya.

The appellee, Mr. Rojas, was appointed to a managerial position for Mr. Montoya’s restaurant, but due to a disagreement of the terms and nature of their agreement, Mr. Rojas was fired from his position and filed a lawsuit against Mr. Montoya and his sister, Ms. Swanson, who owns the restaurant chain. Ms. Swanson and Mr. Rojas both claimed to have not received notice of the hearing, but it was said that Mr. Rojas’ counsel submitted an incorrect mailing address and Ms. Swanson was on vacation and did not make arrangements. Mr. Montoya did seek counsel after receiving a late notice, but did not take it upon himself to reach out to the court. It was decided that both Mr. Montoya and Ms. Swanson failed to respond to the court’s notices in a timely manner.

After hearing both arguments and rebuttals, the judges announced that they will take each attorney’s arguments in consideration under counsel advice and provide both with a final written decision. Judge Orme then stated there would be no further discussion of the case and called the case to recess, ending the event with a Q&A with Stewart Jones, open to questions from the audience about the court’s processes and the judges’ experiences being members of court.

by Emily Sexton


Audio Transcript


Session 1

Session 2