Judge says dispute over Darrien Hunt settlement not one for federal court

Courts • Slain man’s mother is contesting attorney’s claim to payout from lawsuit.

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Darrien Hunt's mother Susan Hunt at a press conference in Salt Lake City, Friday October 17, 2014. An autopsy report released Friday says Darrien Hunt was shot several times in the back by Saratoga Springs police officers chasing him.

A federal judge has declined to decide the legal dispute between Susan Hunt and her attorney, who are at odds over the attorney's claim to part of the settlement of a lawsuit that Hunt filed over the police shooting death of her son Darrien Hunt.

U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell said in a decision released Wednesday that the question of how much if any of the $900,000 settlement should go to attorney Robert Sykes is best left up to state courts.

Also Wednesday, Campbell officially closed the case.

Campbell recently ruled that Susan Hunt had to accept the settlement with the city of Saratoga Springs after she had told Sykes she would. Instead, she fired him and tried to back out. Hunt hired new attorneys who claimed Sykes had committed malpractice and other professional infractions while he represented Hunt; they disputed his claim to part of the settlement.

"The federal question here is essentially resolved," Campbell wrote in her decision. "All that is left are matters that turn exclusively on state law and, in the process, wade into waters completely regulated by the state."

Darrien Hunt, 22, was pursued by Saratoga Springs officers who shot and killed him in September 2014 after a 911 call to police reported a man carrying a sword in the city. Parents Susan and Curtis Hunt filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city that resulted in the settlement.

Campbell noted that the two parents, who are separated, also are disputing the amount each should get from the settlement.

Susan Hunt appears with her defense attorney, Ron Yengich, in court in Saratoga Springs on Friday, Jan. 23, 2014. Susan Hunt, mother of Darrien Hunt, who was shot and killed by Saratoga Springs police while carrying a sword in September, is facing misdemeanor charges stemming from a reported confrontation she had with officers from that police department in October. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Susan Hunt is overcome with emotion as she remembers her son's final walk. On the one-year anniversary of the death of Darrien Hunt at the hands of police, family, friends and supporters gathered to remember him in Saratoga Springs.