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Sean D. Reyes
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Guarding the First Amendment

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the First Amendment prohibits states from turning pro-life pregnancy clinics into government mouthpieces required to convey a state’s preferred message about abortion.  Utah supports this decision, along with 20 other states who filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to protect the clinics’ First Amendment rights. 

It is a significant win. 

It all started in 2015 when California passed the Reproductive FACT Act. The legislation, an acronym for Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency, required two types of crisis pregnancy clinics – unlicensed and licensed – to post certain kinds of notices. Unlicensed crisis pregnancy centers had to disclose to their clients that they are not a licensed medical facility and have no licensed medical provider on staff. Licensed clinics that do not provide a full range of reproductive services had to post a sign informing clients that the State provides free or low-cost access to prenatal care, birth control, and other reproductive services, including abortion.

Most crisis-pregnancy centers are faith-based and pro-life. As a result, the FACT Act would require them to disseminate a message about practices they oppose. The states’ amicus brief opposed this requirement.  No other medical facility is required to inform its clients about services provided by other facilities.

The Supreme Court ruled that the FACT Act likely violates the First Amendment because the Act requires the clinics to speak a particular message that is not their own and therefore alters the content of their speech. This becomes an act of forced speech, since promoting alternative services, including abortion, would be a violation of their beliefs.

Bottom line:

Not only is the government not allowed to ban speech, it isn’t allowed to tell you what to say either.

For more documents, and information, check out SCOTUSblog

 


Utah’s War on the Unreadable Amicus

Well over 800 amicus briefs were submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017.  All were numbered, tagged, diced, and measured for the following five crucial elements of good legal writing:

  • Flow
  • Plain English
  • Punchiness
  • Reading Happiness
  • Sentence Length

Top score? Utah’s Solicitor General Tyler Green, of course. 

Here’s an excerpt from Doctor Adam Feldman’s analysis entitled Getting Rid of those Amicus Blues

The top scoring brief was from Utah’s Solicitor General Tyler Green in Lucia v. SEC.  Another one of Green’s briefs, the one from D.C. v. Wesby, ranked in this top group as well. 

The Utah AG’s Office combines the natural respect of courts for the work of the states with style, readability, and strong arguments. 

Why this matters

“The number of amicus briefs filed each term far outweighs the number of briefs filed by direct parties. These amicus groups vie against one another for the Court’s attention as the resources for evaluating these briefs are limited.  High-quality writing remains one of the best ways for groups to get the Court’s attention. . . “

Bryan Schott has more in Utah Policy.

Read Dr. Feldman’s full report here


Man Charged with Six Counts of Sexual Exploitation

On June 25th, the Utah Attorney General’s Office tracked down a man believed to be engaged in illegal online sexual activity.  He had impersonated as some of his own relatives on numerous dating sites and sexually explicit websites. Investigators served a search warrant on his phone and found that he was also in possession of child pornography.

You can read the KSL story, below. 

KSL: Charges: Man posed as female relatives to post sexually explicit material 

A big thank you to the investigators and prosecutors of ICAC Task Forces around the state who work tirelessly to keep our families safe. 

 

Photo by Malik Earnest


AG Reyes’ statement on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 9, 2018

 

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES COMMENTS ON SCOTUS NOMINATION
Sean Reyes Praises Judge Kavanaugh, Urges Quick Confirmation

SALT LAKE CITY – This evening, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes made the following statement in support of the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States:

I applaud President Trump for nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Kavanaugh’s experience and jurisprudence on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia demonstrates he has the most important quality a judicial nominee can possess—the ability to decide cases as an impartial judge based on the U.S. Constitution and laws passed by Congress, and not as a would-be legislator, based on laws as the judge may wish them to be.

President Trump deserves credit for continuing his commitment to nominate originalist and textualist jurists like Justice Neal Gorsuch and Judge Brett Kavanaugh who respect the Constitution and the Rule of Law. Judge Kavanaugh brings with him many of the best aspects of Justice Kennedy’s legacy in addition to his own unique lens to the Court.

Those who have worked with Judge Kavanaugh on both sides of the aisle praise his intellect, approach and character on the bench. He will be a fine addition to the High Court. I urge the Senate to quickly confirm Judge Kavanaugh so that the Court can continue its important work with a full complement of Justices when it returns to the bench this fall.

# # #

 

 

[UPDATE, 7/13/18:] A majority of the nation’s state attorneys general, including AG Reyes, asked the United States Senate to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, describing him as an outstanding jurist with a proven commitment to upholding the Constitution and the rule of law. Here’s the letter


Supreme Court Win: Mark Janus

In the ongoing American saga of workers, unions, and government, the Supreme Court reversed a four-decade-old opinion which puts the power of choice back in the hands of the individual citizen. 

The process started with a new case brought by Mark Janus, a child support specialist who works for the state of Illinois. Janus sued his union, stating he did not agree with their positions and therefore should not be forced to pay their union fees.

Utah joined 18 other states in support of Janus and urged the court to overturn the 1977 decision in order to protect the First Amendment rights of the individual. You can read our brief here

The Supreme Court overturned their 1977 decision which stated that while it was illegal for unions to force members to pay for their political activities, it was fair to collect fees for collective bargaining and administrative fees.  

In this year’s case? The worker won. 

The Supreme Court’s new ruling strikes down an Illinois law requiring union non-members to pay fees for the collective bargaining process, matters affecting wages and contracts, as well as negotiating conditions and hours of employment. The Court stated the distinction in the 1977 case between a union’s political spending and other activities is unsustainable and unworkable. It has led to practical problems and is inconsistent with other First Amendment cases protecting free speech. 

Find more on the SCOTUSblog.

You’ll remember that Utah had a local version of this issue many years ago (here and here), which also went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The State of Utah led seven other states saying then, as it did in Janus, that an individual’s free speech rights were at stake.  In case you’re interested, here is a copy of our 2009 brief (PDF).

All of this paints an interesting backdrop for today’s discussion about the White House and federal employee unions.

Thanks for paying attention. 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Sebastian Pichler


ICYMI: The AG’s Office Week In Review

Happy Friday.  It’s been a good week at the Utah State Capitol. The pace was less frenetic, due to the Independence Day holiday, but there is still plenty to talk about. Here’s a quick rundown. 

Happy Independence Day from AG Reyes
Sean shares a few thoughts on the roots and source of American freedom.   

Oakland & San Francisco Climate Change Case Dismissed
Our state was part of a significant victory for the separation of powers doctrine.  

AG’s Office Staffs FanX Harassment Hotline 
We’ll partner up with FanX to run a hotline at this year’s convention, much like we did at Sundance. 

UTAH@EASE: Providing Legal Services to our Military & Vets
The Utah@Ease Program launched this week. This is one you may want to share with friends.

Video: Stay Safe Online
AG Reyes discussed the danger of pirate websites and what you can do to avoid becoming a victim. 

Thanks for paying attention! Have a great weekend. 


#TBT: Stay Safe Online

As more and more of our lives take place online, guarding your safety and privacy is even more crucial.  Today’s #TBT is a public service video AG Sean Reyes posted in January about pirate website dangers and how to avoid them.

Don’t be a victim. Guard your privacy. Be careful about the websites you visit, and warn your kids about how to stay safe online. 

For tips on how you and your family can be more safe online, visit StaySafeOnline. You might pay particular attention to the Online Safety Basics page, and Secure Key Accounts and Devices

You should also click through the Parent Resources at NetSmartz

Happy Thursday! 

 

 

 

 

Photo by  Marvin Meyer


Gratitude for Liberty

By Sean Reyes
Utah Attorney General

As we celebrate Independence Day, I am profoundly grateful for those who sacrificed so much to bring to life this improbable nation. Our forefathers walked a precarious path, compelled by the conviction that all men are created equal and premised upon the revolutionary notion that liberties are granted to man not by despots, but by Divinity. These are the same liberties and opportunities we enjoy today. 

Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit.” I wholeheartedly agree and encourage you to join me in remembering the humble roots of this great land, and working to protect the constitutional principles that make it great.

 

 

 

Photo by Wellington Rodrigues

 

 


UTAH@EASE: Connecting Veterans to Legal Services

This week, the AG’s Office launched the UTAH@EASE initiative.  This program will support military veterans, guardsmen, reservists, and active duty personnel. They put their lives on the line to support us, now we can give a little back by providing pro bono legal services in certain civil matters. 

UTAH@EASE is a public/private partnership between the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Utah Department of Military and Veteran’s Affairs, and the Utah State Bar. The initiative was recognized in House Concurrent Resolution 13, sponsored by Representative Val Peterson and Senator Pete Knudson, and signed by Governor Herbert.  You can watch the bill signing on our Facebook page

If you or someone you know is a military veteran in need of legal support, please pass along the contact information below.

Larry Schmidt
UTAH@EASE Director
lschmidt@agutah.gov
385-227-9599

Our veterans will then be connected to local volunteer attorneys and firms.

Photo: James Motter on Unsplash


FanX Harassment Hotline

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is proud to partner with FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention to bring a 24/7 harassment hotline to the 2018 conference this September.  This initiative follows in the footsteps of a similar successful effort at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. You can find the FanX press release here

Together, we hope to send a clear message to participants that bullying, abuse, assault, or harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.

During the event, anyone witnessing a violation of the Zero Tolerance Harassment Policy should call the hotline. Reports will be routed to the AG’s Office for initial action and, if necessary, referred to the local police or FanX for further investigation. The hotline number is 1-801-834-1944. 

The AG’s Office applauds FanX and their efforts to ensure their events are safe and fun for all.

 

 


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