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National Overdose Prevention Day 2021

Today – August 31, 2021 – is National Overdose Prevention Day.

Fighting the Opioid Crisis in Utah is one of the focuses of the AG’s Office, and we work daily to prevent overdose and to assist individuals struggling with substance abuse.

One of the ways the AG’s Office fights the spread of opioids is by overseeing the Utah Opioid Task Force, which works in conjunction with Utah Naloxone and others in this effort. Naloxone is a very safe medication that reverses an opioid overdose if given in time to the individual who has experienced the overdose. Quick access to Naloxone saves lives.

In fact, in an August 2021 press release by Utah Naloxone details that “more than 500 people in Utah are alive” today thanks to the efforts of law enforcement officers and other trained professionals who administer Naloxone to those in need. The release references the recent efforts of the Lehi City Policy Department, which began equipping their officers with Naloxone in December 2020. This recent change has already resulted in officers administering Naloxone to save lives in 7 separate incidents. We are proud of these officers for demonstrating what it looks like to save lives and prevent opioid overdose using Naloxone.

As we observe National Overdose Prevention Day today, we also celebrate the victories we continue to experience in the opioid crisis. In addition, we mourn the loss of any life due to opioid overdose, and vow to do all we can to save as many lives as possible.

To learn more about how the Utah Opioid Task Force is addressing the Utah Opioid Crisis, please visit this link.

To read more about the 500 Utah lives saved by using Naloxone, please read this KSL article.

To read about the recent settlement with Opioid manufacturing and distribution companies, please visit this article.


Honoring the Life and Sacrifice of Utah-based U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover

“The Utah Attorney General’s Office, my family and all my team join me in sending our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, who gave his life yesterday bravely protecting fellow Americans and our loyal friends in Afghanistan. 

“Staff Sgt. Taylor was a U.S. Marine, Utah native and son of a proud law enforcement family. He put his life on the line every day to defend our freedom from radical terrorist organizations like the Taliban and ISIS-K. He was a true warrior and patriot. 

“The great State of Utah and our nation will forever be indebted to Taylor for his courage and commitment to the United States and all that it stands for. May the peace he sought to protect now rest upon his soul!”

–Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes


Utah to FDA: Regulate E-Cigarettes/Oral Nicotine to Protect Youth from Addiction

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today joined a bipartisan coalition of 31 states and territories in urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to halt the surge of youth nicotine addiction by enacting restrictions on tobacco products that disproportionately harm youth. Specifically, the coalition is calling on the FDA to use its regulatory power to eliminate youth-appealing flavors, limit nicotine levels in e-cigarette and oral nicotine products such as pouches, gum, and lozenges, and restrict marketing for these products. The FDA is responsible for deciding whether to allow the products to stay on the market through the Premarket Tobacco Product Applications (PMTAs) filed for each product, and these proposed measures would deny approval for any product that would worsen America’s youth nicotine epidemic. 

READ A COPY OF THE LETTER HERE
 
“E-cigarettes have a reputation of being ‘harmless’ compared to traditional cigarettes. They’re not,” said Utah Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak. “The reality is that young people’s lungs can be severely damaged by these products. In the last decade, Utah has seen a drastic increase in use among youth and young adults. Because the candy and fruit flavors of these products make them easy to like, eliminating those flavors can prevent our youth from creating a lifelong unhealthy habit.”
 
E-cigarette use among high school students increased dramatically, from just 1.5 percent in 2011 to 11.7 percent in 2017, and then to 27.5 percent in 2019. Data from 2020 shows that 19.6 percent of high school students have used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, with 38.9 percent of those reporting e-cigarette use on 20 or more days of the past 30 days, and 22.5 percent reporting daily use. Additionally, oral nicotine products (most notably pouches) are quickly becoming the fastest-growing nicotine category in convenience stores, growing by about 500 percent. It is estimated that 13 percent of those between 15-24 years old used oral nicotine products in the past 30 days. 
 
E-cigarettes and oral nicotine products have not received marketing authorization from the FDA, as required by federal law. Companies like JUUL have been vigorously marketing flavored nicotine products, largely free from regulatory supervision, leading to what former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams characterized as a “youth nicotine epidemic.” In their letter to the FDA, the coalition argues that the FDA must address the epidemic by Imposing restrictions and age verification on all traditional and digital marketing campaigns targeting young people.   
 
Additionally, the coalition maintains that the FDA should limit the amount of nicotine in e-cigarette and oral nicotine products, which are at their highest levels to date. Nicotine has particularly harmful effects on the developing brain, with youth being significantly more likely to become addicted than adults. High youth nicotine consumption is also associated with numerous adverse physical outcomes, like nicotine poisoning and toxicity.  Nicotine has also been tied to mental health and behavioral problems like major depressive disorder, academic problems, and addiction to other substances.  

Finally, the coalition argues that banning candy, mint, fruit, and menthol flavors, is essential to eliminating the appeal of the products to youth consumers. More than 80 percent of youth using e-cigarettes choose non-tobacco-flavors. Though the FDA announced that it would prioritize its enforcement against flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes (except menthol and tobacco flavors), menthol-flavored e-cigarette sales jumped 54.5 percent in market share over the four weeks following the FDA’s April 2020 guidance, and 82.8 percent over eight weeks, indicating its popularity among youth.  

The FDA is expected to decide whether e-cigarettes and oral nicotine products should be allowed to remain on the market starting on Sept. 9, 2021. The coalition urges the FDA to deny all PMTAs for products containing high levels of nicotine, and for products containing menthol or other flavors. 
 
Attorney General Reyes joined today’s coalition led by the attorneys general of Idaho, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Other members of the bipartisan coalition include the attorney generals of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
 
 
While the coalition of Attorneys General has urged the FDA to implement industry-wide proposals, they recognize that the youth nicotine epidemic is a substantial problem. Many of the coalition have already used their own independent authority under state law to combat the companies who have helped fuel this epidemic and may continue to seek further relief as appropriate against companies that violate our state laws.

 
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AG’s Office Clerkship & Internship Applications NOW OPEN

We are pleased to announce that the applications for our Fall 2021 Semester Internships & Clerkships are now open.

Internships with the AG’s Office allow students to be paired with the divisions that are of the most interest to them. These internships are unpaid, and are available for both part-time and full-time work. Interested parties should USE THIS LINK to submit an application. Internship applications are due by September 1st. Please contact AGHR@agutah.gov if you have any questions.

Clerkships with the AG’s Office are a bit different from the general internships as applicants must be current law students to be considered for a clerkship position. Additionally, our Law Clerks are paid based upon their experience (2nd year law students will be paid $14.97/hour, while 3rd year law students will make $15.78).

For a more in-depth look at the Law Clerk positions, and to submit an application, please VISIT THIS LINK. Please contact AGHR@agutah.gov if you have any questions.


Utah Calls for Faster Implementation of Anti-Robocall Technology

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fight back against the scourge of illegal robocalls by moving up the deadline for certain smaller companies to implement certain caller ID requirements.  Utah joined a bipartisan coalition of 51 states and territories in submitting comments to the FCC.
 
Joint statement from Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak and Utah Division of Consumer Protection Director Daniel O’Bannon: “Fighting these pesky robocalls has been and will continue to be an ongoing priority for us. Robocalls are among the top complaints our offices hear.  We want to use the most advanced techniques and technology to continuously make progress. But we understand this is an ongoing fight— and we won’t stop until the calls stop.”
 
Under the TRACED Act, which became law in 2019, voice service providers are required to implement STIR/SHAKEN technology on their networks. This caller ID authentication technology helps ensure that telephone calls are originating from verified numbers, not spoofed sources. Large companies were required to implement the technology by June 2021, and smaller companies were given an extension until June 2023.
 
However, some of the same smaller companies that are benefitting from this extension are also responsible for originating or facilitating high volumes of illegal robocalls that spam Americans and lead to financial or personal data loss. Without the STIR/SHAKEN technology in place, these smaller companies are failing to take a necessary step to minimize the continued onslaught of illegally spoofed robocalls that harm residents.
 
The coalition of attorneys general is asking the FCC to require these companies to implement the STIR/SHAKEN technology as soon as possible and no later than June 30, 2022. 
 
A copy of the comments is available HERE. 


Victory for the Utah AG’s Office | Death Penalty Upheld in Appeal of 1990 Murder

In a victory for the Utah Attorney General’s Office, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado, has upheld the original death penalty conviction of Von Lester Taylor for the 1990 double murder of Kaye Tiede and Beth Potts in Summit County, Utah.

According to an article by KSL: “On December 22, 1990, Taylor and Edward Deli walked away from a halfway house in Salt Lake City and then broke into a vacant mountain cabin in the Beaver Springs subdivision in Oakley, Summit County.”

The pair then encountered Kaye Tiede and her mother, Beth Potts, “a blind a partially handicapped Murray woman.” Shortly after walking in on the two men in the cabin, both women had been shot and killed. Taylor and Deli then robbed and shot Rolf Tiede, husband to Kaye, dousing him in gasoline before lighting the cabin on fire and kidnapping Tiede’s two daughters. Rolf and his two daughters survived the horrific attack, which ended with the arrests of both Taylor and Deli.

After being tried for the murders, attempted murder and kidnapping, Von Lester Taylor was sentenced to death and put on Utah’s death row. Taylor’s accomplice Edward Deli was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the killings. Since that time, Taylor has appealed his sentence multiple times, claiming to be innocent and that the shots that killed Tiede and Potts had actually been fired by Deli. A federal court eventually agreed with this version of events, and overturned his death penalty sentence in 2020.

Since that time, Assistant Solicitors General Andrew Peterson and Erin Riley, and others from the Utah Attorney General’s Office have been working tirelessly to ensure that justice would be done in this case. As a result of these efforts, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, CO, issued a new ruling reversing the 2020 decision and reinstating the death penalty.

According to the new ruling: “His actual innocence of capital murder as a principal does not absolve him of the substantive crime of capital murder under Utah law. He must also prove his actual innocence as an accomplice. Mr. Taylor failed to do so.”

“Mr. Taylor is not innocent in any sense of the word. The evidence clearly establishes that Mr. Taylor intended to cause the deaths of Kaye Tiede and Beth Potts and intentionally aided Mr. Deli to that end.”

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Joni Jones, Assistant AG, is Utah Bar’s Lawyer of the Year

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah State Bar has named Assistant Attorney General Joni J. Jones, Director of the Litigation Division as the 2021 Lawyer of the Year. 

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes reacted to the news of this honor by saying: “I’m extremely proud that Joni has received this deserved honor.  Her continued dedication, hard work and devotion to excellence in the AGO’s Litigation Division is evident in case after case.  She inspires and motivates her already hardworking staff.  Congratulations, Joni!”

Joni Jones has been with the Attorney General’s Office for 20 years and has worked on a number of high-profile cases.  Those include her close work with the University of Utah counsel to bring the Lauren McCluskey case to a resolution.  She won an AG award for her work on the Parker Jensen case, where DCFS sought medical treatment for a child diagnosed with cancer when the parents refused to allow treatment. She was lead counsel on the same-sex “interim marriage” case and represented Paul Cassell in the defamation lawsuit brought by Alan Dershowitz, arising from Professor Cassell’s pro bono work on the Epstein sex-trafficking case, winning every motion against Mr. Dershowiz’s legal team.  Ms. Jones has also worked on Supreme Court cases, including Frew v. Hawkins, where Ms. Jones was counsel of record for the State of Utah’s amicus brief in support of Texas officials in a case challenging the enforcement of a consent decree. Nineteen states joined Utah’s brief, which the Court cited with approval.

Joni manages a staff of 50 attorneys in the Litigation Division, which oversees all lawsuits against state agencies and state employees seeking money damages.  She is also chair of the AG Ethics Committee and serves on the Utah Supreme Court Advisory Committee for the Rules of Professional Conduct.

See the AG’s Office Instagram account for a post featuring Joni and her accomplishment.

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Deondra Brown: Musician, Survivor, Advocate, Hero

Meet Deondra Brown.

You may recognize her from the popular Utah-based piano playing group ‘The 5 Browns,’ which she plays in with her siblings. (If you haven’t heard of them, check them out either on Instagram or YouTube!)

However, aside from being a musical phenomenon, Deondra works tirelessly as a part of the Utah Attorney General’s Office to fight and advocate for survivors in our Children’s Justice Center program. Deondra, who is a survivor herself, is a hero to so many throughout the state.

This week, KSL News published a story featuring Deondra and her many efforts to protect the most vulnerable. We are so proud of her and all that she has accomplished in the fight against sexual exploitation in Utah.

Here are some additional articles detailing more about Deondra’s story and ongoing efforts:


Utah Joins SCOTUS Abortion Case

SALT LAKE CITY — This week, the Utah Attorney General’s Office supported a Mississippi abortion case asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Utah joined 24 states in a friend of the court (amicus) brief also asks the court to reverse Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case from 1992 that upheld the constitutional right to abortion while allowing the states to regulate the practice to protect the health of the mother and the life of the fetus.

Read the 44-page brief to the Supreme Court here.

Utah Attorney General Melissa Holyoak issued the following statement after the state joined the case.

“Regardless of one’s view of the Supreme Court’s abortion precedent, it is the Attorney General’s duty to defend the laws of the State of Utah. We support the petition to the Supreme Court because similar to Mississippi’s law, Utah’s law prohibiting elective abortions after 18 weeks is constitutional. Nothing in the Constitution prevents states from enacting reasonable measures to safeguard the dignity of all human beings, including the unborn. The legal challenge to Utah’s law is stayed pending the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision, but the Attorney General’s Office will continue to vigorously defend Utah law.”

More: News coverage of this story–

https://www.deseret.com/utah/2021/7/29/22600741/utah-joins-mississippi-abortion-case-overturn-roe-wade-supreme-court

https://www.fox13now.com/news/local-news/utah-joins-lawsuit-to-overturn-roe-v-wade

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After 39 Years, Disability Services Assistant Attorney General Steve Mikita Retires

Steve Mikita, who has worked for 39 years as Assistant Attorney General for Disability, has announced he is retiring on August 3, 2021. 

Mikita’s unique service to the state and the disability community is unmatched in Utah history.  Born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, he has no movement from the neck down and was not expected to live past the age of 2.  His unique and challenging life experience has allowed him to work his entire career as an advocate for the community. 

“We’re going to miss Steve, more than I can express,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes.  “He’s been a great leader and tremendous colleagues in our office. His work in the Disability Community and expertise in related legal issues have been unmatched in both significance and longevity.  His life experience has allowed him to serve the State of Utah with incredible insight and he shares that knowledge in ways that have made a real difference in people’s lives. We wish him well in his retirement.”

Mikita handled complex and difficult matters involving the ADA and has a vast array of knowledge regarding disability law.  He frequently shares his knowledge when other divisions of the AG’s office encounter disability law questions.  He is part of the AG’s Office, State Agency Counsel Division, Department of Human Services Section, assigned to represent DSPD, the USDC, and DAAS.   He is also proud of his work as a Participant Representative on the National Institute of Health “All of Us” steering committee. (The study focuses on helping others by collecting health data from more than 1 million Americans).

Mikita did his undergraduate studies at Duke University, where he was the first freshman in a wheelchair to be admitted.  He is a published author, having written the book I Sit All Amazed, The Extraordinary Power of a Mother’s Love.


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