The 2021 UEA Honor Roll Award was presented to Julie Nelson of Zimmerman Booher Appellate Attorneys for her work in securing due process rights for educators. The award was presented at the UEA/KeyBank Superstars in Education Banquet in October 2021. UEA General Council Tracey Watson presented the award and made the following comments:
“Julie Nelson has a deep passion for public education and for our UEA members. She is a distinguished appellate attorney who has secured a number of victories to protect and preserve the due process rights of UEA members.
“In one case, Julie ultimately secured unemployment benefits for a member after she resigned her employment when faced with the reality she was being terminated for performance criteria that were outside of her control. The case changed Utah law as it applied to the eligibility for public school teachers to secure unemployment benefits after they resign when facing termination. Not only was this case successful but UEA members continue to benefit from this holding and legal precedent.
“In another case, a UEA member was terminated after 20+ years of service. An initial review of the evidence determined there was a substantial likelihood of success the educator would prevail upon appeal. After an initial review, the UEA contacted our outside appellate expert: Julie Nelson. Julie gladly accepted the challenge. The statute governing termination appeals at the time directed the appeal to the “appropriate court”. Julie filed an appeal in the Utah Court of Appeals. The Utah Attorney General’s Office argued that was not the appropriate court because school districts are political subdivisions, not agencies. Julie thought best not to contest that argument and to allow the Court of Appeals to send the appeal to the district court. The AG’s Office then argued the district court was not appropriate, either; in essence leaving our educator without a court; and leaving UEA the duty to seek a legislative change. This process led to the creation and passage of House Bill 182 that clarifies the Utah Court of Appeals as the appropriate court.
“In addition to these notable cases, I have also reached out to Julie for consultation on other complex legal matters pertaining to our members rights. Julie is an educator herself: she tutors students for various standardized tests; she has a passion for public education; and she loves her work with and on behalf of UEA members. Since she started in private practice in 2012, she has represented UEA and its members in defending their due process rights.
“It’s my honor to present a 2021 UEA Honor Roll Award to Julie Nelson.”