Well-known Utah civil rights attorney Brian Barnard has passed away.
His legal office in Salt Lake City confirmed his death to the Herald Tuesday afternoon. The cause of his death was not immediately known.
Barnard has handled some of the more high profile cases dealing with civil rights or freedom of speech in Utah. He was the attorney for an atheist group that sued the state of Utah for the crosses erected on public property near the highway to honor fallen highway patrol officers, arguing that it amounted to the government endorsing a religion; the Utah Supreme Court ordered the state to remove the crosses.
He also questioned the Utah County Jail for apparently not having Social Security taxes removed from inmates' paychecks; requested that Lehi City change a solicitation ordinance in Lehi that he claimed outlawed Girl Scouts selling cookies and other charity drives along with aggressive solicitation; and sued Mapleton over the city's election sign regulations and threatened a similar lawsuit against Cedar Hills.
His most recent case in Utah County is a lawsuit against Pleasant Grove on behalf of Summum, a religious organization that wants to put a monument of its Seven Aphorisms in the city park along with the monument of the Ten Commandments. The U.S. Supreme Court has said no once already, but Barnard refiled in state court, arguing that the city's regulation are unconstitutional.
The ACLU of Utah called his death a huge loss to the community.
"Whenever anyone thinks of a civil rights lawyer in Utah, they think of Brian Barnard. He has stood up for the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable for decades and has been instrumental in moving civil rights forward," the ACLU statement read.
One of Barnard's first free speech cases was in 1975 when he defended a theater owner who showed the film "Deep Throat" and in so doing attacked a broad obscenity ordinance that the ACLU said stifled free expression. He also was involved in a lawsuit that forced the exclusive members-only Alta Club in Salt Lake City to admit women.
Barnard was 67 years old.