The Justice Files: Judge throws out UHP sexual harassment lawsuit

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – A Utah Highway Patrol trooper was cleared of sexual harassment charges in a lawsuit that was dismissed in federal court.

But the woman who sued Sgt. Blaine Robbins in 2018 is considering an appeal. Heather Leyva filed the lawsuit two years ago.  

At the time Leyva worked for West Coast Towing.  It had a contract with UHP to tow when called.  She accused Robbins of leaving the company out of the rotation and confronted him.

The lawsuit claimed Robbins texted her back and said the company was back in the rotation.

But the lawsuit claimed Robbins continued to send personal and sexists texts to Leyva. 

Words like “baby, beautiful and sexy” were sent allegedly by Robbins.  He even pulled her over once using siren and lights because “I just want to see you,” her attorney Robert Sykes said at the time the lawsuit was announced.

“It is such a hard place to be in and it is very emotionally exhausting,” Leyva said in 2018.

UHP did investigate the complaint and Sgt. Robbins was transferred and demoted, but earlier this month a federal judge dismissed the case on grounds Robbins, as an officer, was immune from such lawsuits.

“I like this judge, I respect this judge, but I think he got this one wrong,” Sykes told ABC4.
In reaching his decision Judge Robert Shelby wrote that a “reasonable jury could find that Robbins violated Leyva’s constitutional rights.”

But he also added that it may have been consensual.  He said Leyva’s “flirtatious conduct appears to have continued even after she lodged her complaint against Robbins.”

Judge Shelby said the law isn’t clear on this specific type of case which allowed Robbins immunity from being sued.

Sykes said the ruling fails to take into consideration women who are forced to play along to get along.

“She was between a rock and a hard place,” Sykes said.  “I think that’s what the court in this case failed to appreciate, the vulnerable role of a single woman in the workplace, that I think is the victim of this court decision. Not just my client but other women in the workplace that have to deal with men like this officer.”

A spokesman for UHP said the agency is “pleased” the case was dismissed.  But UHP declined to comment whether the agency still supports the decision to demote Robbins claiming it was a personnel matter.

Friday, West Coast Towing provided this statement on behalf of Leyva:

OUR RESPONSE TO JUDGE SHELBY’S DECISION WAS SUPRISING TO US:

ALL THE EVIDENCE IS GRAMMA PROTECTED, IF THE PUBLIC WAS ABLE TO VIEW THOSE DOCUMENTS FOR THEMSELVES, PEOPLE WOULD BE DISAPPOINTED IN THE ACTIONS TAKEN BY UHP AND JUDGE SHELBY.

MS. LEYVA WILL BE APPEALING THIS CASE AND JUDGE SHELBY’S DECISION.

THE GRAMMA PROTECTION NEEDS TO BE REMOVED AND PEOPLE WITH POWER NEED TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS. THEY SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO HIDE BEHIND IMMUNITY CLAUSES BECAUSE THEY HAVE A BADGE.

THIS IS NOT A CASH GRAB CASE THIS IS ABOUT LEYVA’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND PEOPLE OF POWER AND THEM MISUSING THAT POWER TO VIOLATE THOSE RIGHTS.

ROBBINS WAS NOT CLEARED OF THIS, HE WAS GRANTED IMMUNITY AND THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. JUDGE SHELBY EVEN STATED THAT a “reasonable jury could find that Robbins violated Leyva’s  fourth and fourteenth amendment rights. Nonetheless, Robbins is immune under the second prong of the qualified immunity defense on each claim for the forgoing reasons, Robbins motion for summary judgement is granted, Leyva’s Motion for summary judgement is denied and the clerk of court is directed to close the case.”

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