Thomas Lee of Utah has been an Associate Justice of the Utah Supreme Court since 2010. Beginning in 1997, he served on the faculty of Brigham Young University Law School, where he still teaches in an adjunct capacity. Justice Lee was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s Civil Division from 2004 to 2005. Justice Lee attended the University of Chicago Law School, and he clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Lee is also the son of former U.S. Solicitor General Rex Lee and the brother of current U.S. Senator Mike Lee.
—Donald Trump Statement on Potential Supreme Court Justices
Justice Lee’s majority opinion struck down Utah’s Guilty and Mentally Ill statute on Double Jeopardy Grounds. The statute impermissibly allowed judges to increase a sentence months after initially handing it down.
Justice Lee’s majority opinion established in Utah evidence law the “doctrine of chances.” Justice Lee reversed a district court’s admission of 404(b) evidence and vacated the defendant’s conviction.
In a case to determine whether an unborn fetus qualified as a “minor child” under Utah’s wrongful death statute, a majority of the Utah Supreme Court, including Justice Lee, said no. Justice Lee disagreed with the majority’s use of “plain language” analysis to reach that conclusion, however, and wrote a separate opinion.
Justice Lee’s majority opinion held that the people of Utah have retained, coextensive power to adopt legislation. On that basis, Justice Lee articulated a new test for upholding a ballot initiative: where the ballot initiative proposes a law of general applicability, the initiative qualifies as a legislative act.
Justice Lee’s majority opinion clarified the scope of the “covenant of good faith and fair dealing” in Utah contract law, finding it did now allow the judiciary to “codify standards of altruism that a party may have held itself to in the course of its contract performance.”
In a concurrence, Justice Lee found no “exclusionary rule” remedy in the Utah State Constitution’s version of the Fourth Amendment.
Justice Lee’s unanimous majority opinion eliminated Auer deference to state administrative agencies. Justice Lee emphasized that judicial deference too readily transfers the judicial power to an executive agency.