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Sean D. Reyes
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AG Reyes To Congress: Support Low-Income Legal Assistance

Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), which sent a letter to Congress to support beneficent funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The LSC provides critical legal assistance to low-income Americans, helping families in need across the country.

The letter, in part, urges Congress to make a “robust investment” in the LSC to “provide critical legal assistance to residents in need across the country.” The letter concludes: “We have seen how access to legal representation helps achieve justice for the residents we serve.”

Nonprofit legal aid programs funded by the federal program provide services to millions of Americans annually, reaching across every state and territory. The funding is a wise investment in accessible legal representation. Numerous Americans, including families with children, renters and homeowners, farmers, veterans, the disabled, and the elderly, have benefitted for over 50 years from federally funded LSC services. In some states, over 80% of legal assistance dollars come from LSC. These legal aid organizations donate their time and skills to assist those in need.

Read the letter here.

AG Reyes Supports Benefits for Public Safety Officers & Families Affected by Work Related PTSD

Today, April 25th, Attorney General Reyes and 53 other attorneys general added their voices in support of the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022. The legislation addresses gaps in support for public safety officers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) associated with the high-risk nature of their jobs.

In the letter, the attorneys general praise the work of public safety officers including police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians who respond to stressful and often traumatic situations. Compared to the general public, they are 25.6 times more likely to develop PTSD. Those who suffer from PTSD are at increased risk of suicide.

While this bill will not prevent suicide and trauma endured by public safety officials, the legislation supports public safety officers by:

  • Designating work-related PTSD and acute stress disorder as a “line-of-duty” injury for eligible officers and those who are permanently disabled from attempted suicide.
  • Allowing families of officers who die by trauma-linked suicide to apply for death benefits.

Read full letter here:

Senator Orrin Hatch, 1934-2022

Today, Utahns and the Utah Attorney General’s Office are honoring and remembering Senator Orrin Hatch, who passed away at age 88. Sen. Hatch served in the U.S. Senate representing Utah from 1977-to 2019. His 42-year tenure was the longest-serving Republican Senator in this nation and the longest-serving from Utah.

The following is a statement from Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes:

“I don’t think anyone in Utah politics will ever have such an outsized influence on national and global policy nor generate greater worldwide goodwill than Senator Orrin Hatch. I deeply mourn the loss of my friend. He was a tremendous mentor and I will miss our many talks and his wise advice. 

While most recognize how much Orrin Hatch championed Utah over decades of service, far fewer realize the incredible amount he was able to accomplish and benefit our state behind the scenes. His legacy of service, rooted in the Rule of Law, will forever be a part of Utah and American history. His commitment to his family and faith along with his service to our state, nation, and God has inspired many of us over the years. 
Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to Elaine and the entire Hatch family and the Hatch Foundation team. 
As a lawyer, lawmaker, committee chairman, presidential candidate, academic, athlete, and author, he leaves a legacy of decency and gentlemanly collaboration. 
While a statesman, he was also a ferocious advocate and powerful leader who helped launch the careers of countless other lawyers, judges, justices, public officials, and many private sector leaders. 
Jurists the caliber of Justice Clarence Thomas have credited Senator Hatch with promoting their careers and putting them in positions to realize their highest potential. 
The Senator was renowned for his ability to work across the aisle while staying true to his own convictions. He leaves an indelible mark on American jurisprudence. 
I have lost a friend. And we have lost an absolute giant in the arena of politics—a titan of American Conservative legal thought.”


AG Reyes Joins Coalition in Asking for Temporary Restraining Order Against Title 42 Revokation Ahead of Deadline

SALT LAKE CITY — Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a coalition asking the court for a Temporary Restraining Order to stop the Biden administration from implementing their Title 42 revocation prematurely. General Reyes is joined by 20 other attorneys general. 

Title 42 expulsions are removals by the U.S. government of persons who have recently been in a country where a communicable disease was present.

“This is a reckless attempt to circumvent the law,” said Utah Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak. “The administration is inviting catastrophe, which will only compound the existing crisis at our border.”

The Biden administration has a pattern of unlawfully circumventing correct processes required under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). This is a case revolving around the CDC’s revocation of Title 42, which was supposed to go into effect on May 23. News reports have indicated that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its subagencies are no longer utilizing Title 42 with migrants from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The revocation of Title 42 was already unlawful as the Biden administration failed to follow the correct notice and comment procedure under the APA, and the pattern continues as DHS is unlawfully implementing the revocation early – more than a month ahead of time.

The brief filed today calls on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to issue a Temporary Restraining Order and to require DHS to provide proof or the lack thereof, that they have been enforcing Title 42 as required by law. The Temporary Restraining Order would force DHS and its subagencies to continue to implement Title 42 fully until the May 23  effective date.

General Reyes is joined by the Attorneys General of Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming. 

Read the Temporary Restraining Order here.


AG Statement: Utah Letter Blasts S&P on ESG Ratings

On April 21st 2022, Utah leaders wrote to S&P about their credit ratings for Utah. See the following news release:

SALT LAKE CITY — Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, along with other state and federal leaders, unified in a letter to Standard and Poor’s (S&P), demanding the global credit rating agency stop publishing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) credit indicators as part of its credit ratings for states and state subdivisions. The state asserts that the ESG indicators are subjective and likely to be inappropriately influenced by political bias and trends.

Governor Spencer J. Cox, Lieutenant Governor Deidre M. Henderson, Attorney General Reyes, State Treasurer Marlo M. Oaks, State Auditor John Dougall, Senator Mike Lee, Senator Mitt Romney, Representatives Blake Moore, Chris Stewart, John Curtis, and Burgess Owens, Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad R. Wilson asked for detailed responses from S & P Global President and CEO Douglas L. Peterson and S & P Global Ratings President Martina L Cheung.

The office released this statement from Attorney General Reyes: 

“S&P is out of bounds publishing ESG indicators for state and local governments,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Utah has an unparalleled record, maintaining the highest ratings from all rating agencies since each began rating the state. Credit rating agencies should be focused on an entity’s record of fiscal responsibility, the likelihood of repaying a loan, and other bellwether factors of creditworthiness when it comes to credit ratings—not relying on subjective criteria that play to political policy whims.”

To read the letter, click here.

Utah AG Prosecutes Child Porn Case; Gets Severe Sentence

Today, April 20th, 2022, Jonathan Isaac Dew was sentenced to 1-15 years in prison after being convicted of 13 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, after the jury convicted him on March 8th, 2022. Though many of these cases often receive a sentence of 0-210 days in jail, the Utah Attorney General’s Office argued, and the Second District Court judge in the case agreed, that a more severe sentence was appropriate.

As Assistant Attorney General Ryan Holtan argued, the aggravating factors in this case were:

  • Jonathan Dew was in a position of trust, a law enforcement officer at the time of his offenses.
  • The content on his computer was described in court as ‘horrific’; containing images of toddlers ages two and three being raped and sodomized.
  • Jonathan Dew acted with full knowledge of what he was doing.
  • Jonathan Dew used extremely sophisticated methods to cover his tracks, including advanced encryption software.
  • Jonathan Dew has not taken responsibility for his actions.

“Our office continues to prosecute all child porn and exploitation cases as aggressively as we can, and I’m proud of the work by our ICAC investigation and prosecution teams on this case,” said Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “Any matters involving child exploitation are tragic. And here, where a former peace officer is involved, it is even more disturbing. We must hold accountable not only the creators, suppliers, and distributors of child porn but also consumers, such as in this case, who create demand for the abuse to occur.” 

AGs Urge GoFundMe: Better Disclosure and Clarity

Today, a bipartisan coalition of Attorneys General, including Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, wrote GoFundMe to urge better disclosure policies and greater clarity in terms of service for consumers who use their platform.

GoFundMe has become a popular crowdfunding platform.  According to its website, they’ve served over 50 million donors and helped organizers raise more than $5 billion since its launch in 2010.  Individuals, businesses, and charities pay a fee of 2.2-2.9%, plus $0.3 per transaction.  But information on the terms of service and policies, particularly related to blocking, freezing, refunding, and re-directing donations, is hard to find and unclear.

As the Attorneys General stated in their letter, “[P]latforms like GoFundMe are not and should not be empowered to unilaterally make decisions regarding where donated funds will go or why.  If GoFundMe is making opaque and unilateral decisions about which fundraisers are legitimate and which fundraisers to re-route donations to irrespective of initial donor choice, GoFundMe has likely crossed the line from fundraising platform to fundraiser itself.  Such a role implicates significantly different regulatory schemes directed at ensuring transparency in charitable giving.”

The Attorneys General ask GoFundMe to take the following steps and information in response to their letter:

1. Explain in detail how GoFundMe investigates or analyzes fundraisers on its platform, and what criteria GoFundMe uses to determine whether those fundraisers are fundraising for acceptable purposes or not;

2. Explain in detail how GoFundMe determines whether to block, freeze, re-direct, or refund donations and what criteria GoFundMe uses to decide which avenue to take;

3. Explain in detail how GoFundMe handles donations when GoFundMe decides to (i) block donations, (ii) freeze donations, (iii) re-direct donations, and/or (iv) re-direct donations;

4. Review your policies and Terms of Service to ensure that donors are adequately and conspicuously informed at the time of their donation of the circumstances under which their donation may be blocked, frozen, re-directed or refunded without their authorization by conspicuously disclosing those circumstances through the user interface on your platform;

5. Explain in detail the meaning of the term “unacceptable” in the context of your Terms of Service and describe whether there are additional internal policies defining it; and

6. Articulate any steps being taken to address these issues in the form of a responsive letter or a meeting with the undersigned attorneys general.

The letter was signed by the Attorneys General of Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia.

A copy of the letter is HERE.

23-State Coalition Supports Religious Liberty for Service Members on Vaccine Mandate

On Tuesday, April 12th, a coalition of 23 Attorneys General, including Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, filed an amicus brief in Dunn v Austin in support of Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Dunn’s challenge regarding the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on men and women serving in the armed forces. LTC Dunn challenges the Administration’s denial of accommodation for his sincere religious objection to obtaining the vaccine. He has filed an emergency application to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking an injunction to prevent the U.S. Air Force from disciplining or discharging him for being unvaccinated.

“The brave men and women who serve our country should not be forced to discard their religious beliefs when they put on a uniform,” Attorney General Reyes said. “The Administration has once again overstepped its authority by ignoring those rights and pushing forward with its illegal vaccine mandates. We will continue to stand up for our citizens.”

“On August 24, 2021, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced plans to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for active duty and Ready Reserve service members with “ambitious timelines for implementation.”  While the mandate ostensibly includes a religious liberty exemption, in practice, few have been granted.  As the brief notes, using Air Force data, “Of the 7,693 requests for such exemptions, 32 have been granted.  Even accounting for the 2,827 requests still pending, that results in a denial rate of 99.34%.”  The States contrast their own experience in respecting religious liberty while meeting public health needs even at the height of the pandemic with the Administration’s dismissal of fundamental first freedoms even as contraction, hospitalization, and death rates wane.

The mandate was part of a broader push by the Biden Administration to increase national vaccination rates by forcing vaccination on federal contractors, federal employees, healthcare workers, Head Start employees and volunteers, and those employed by private employers with more than 100 workers.  As the States note in their brief, courts have demonstrated skepticism of these Administration mandates, recognizing, “the overreaching and flawed claims of the legal authority underlying the Administration’s response, the tension between its policies and the facts, and its inconsistent statements and actions that undercut its claims of good faith and suggest pretext.”  The States urge the Court to apply similar skepticism to the Administration’s claim to deference here.

Using DOD’s own data, the brief notes the facts that undermine the Administration’s claim that this categorical mandate is necessary for military readiness, including that of 394,293 reported cases within the military population:

  • Only 94 deaths have been reported – a fatality rate of 0.02%, and
  • Only 2,597 have resulted in hospitalization – a rate of 0.66%.

LTC Dunn was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force in 2003 and served three combat tours in Afghanistan.  In 2014, he left active duty and joined the Air Force Reserve.  Three days before DOD’s announcement of this mandate, he took command of the 452nd Contingency Response Squadron.  On April 1, 2022, a split panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied LTC Dunn’s emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal.  Without judicial relief, the pension he has earned in honorable service to this country, and for which he qualifies next year, is in jeopardy. 

The amicus brief was filed by the Attorneys General for Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the complaint here:

AG Reyes Joins 22-State Coalition Against Overreaching Federal-Firearm Accessory Ban

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is part of a 22-state coalition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case of Gun Owners of America v. Merrick Garland, against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) rulemaking that would immediately transform hundreds of thousands of law-abiding gun owners into criminals. The ATF’s Final Rule on Bump-Stock-Type Devices contravened federal law – as well as longstanding ATF policy – when it informed owners of bump stocks that they must surrender or destroy their bump stocks to avoid criminal liability.  A United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit panel rightly ruled against the ATF in March of last year, concluding that bump-stock accessories do not transform commonly used semi-automatic firearms into “machine guns” that are banned by the National Firearms Act of 1934. Following that ruling, the full Sixth Circuit Court allowed the ATF’s rule to stand, after an even split only allowing it to issue an order affirming the district court.

“The issue is, whether the ATF has the constitutional authority to decide to ban bump stocks. It doesn’t,” said AG Reyes. “Congress must decide this issue. If Americans want to outlaw bump stocks, the matter should be debated and voted upon by duly elected representatives of the people—not unilaterally prohibited by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats.”

From the brief: “Actions like the ATF’s do not just violate important principles of administrative law.  They also illustrate how the government can endanger fundamental rights through creeping, incremental, and seemingly benign regulatory depredations. If Congress had wanted to categorically expand the NFA to cover semiautomatic firearms that use a bump-stock accessory, it would—and must—have done so explicitly.”

Through its rulemaking, the ATF overreached and attempted to regulate bump-stock accessories by asserting they transform the firearms they are attached to into “machineguns” as defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA). Semiautomatic rifles are some of America’s most popular firearms.  Millions of law-abiding gun owners depend on these rifles for security, safety, and sporting purposes.  Bump stocks replace the standard stock of these firearms and assist the shooter in “bump firing,” which increases the rate of fire.  They do not transform semi-automatic rifles into automatic machine guns.

“The Final Rule effectively transforms commonly owned firearms into banned machineguns simply because of the use of non-mechanical bump stock accessories.  This interpretation categorically expands the text of the criminal statute in a way that Congress couldn’t possibly have intended,” the brief states. “And it expands criminal liability at the expense of Second Amendment rights, diminishing the latter absent a sufficient and compelling justification.  When the ATF—or any agency—invades protected rights by interpreting statutes too broadly, this Court should step in.”

The ATF’s bump-stock rule is an attempt to contravene Congress and rewrite a statute with no evidence that Congress intended such an interpretation. The ATF itself recognized that “bump firing” has been around for as long as there have been semi-automatic firearms and that common items such as rubber bands, belt loops, and shoestrings can all be used to the same effect as the accessory they are attempting to criminalize.

Click here to read the full brief.

Attorneys general from these states also joined the brief: Montana, West Virginia, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming also signed on in support.

AG Reyes Urges Tik Tok/Snapchat to Give Parents More Control

Utah Attorney General Reyes and 44 attorneys general wrote TikTok and Snapchat this week to urge them to give parents the ability to monitor their children’s social media usage and protect their children from online threats using parental control apps.

The letter is addressed to attorneys for TikTok and Snapchat, and says in part: “Your platforms do not effectively collaborate with parental control applications (“apps”) or otherwise provide an adequate opportunity for parental control within the platform. Many other platforms already allow parental control apps to monitor the content on their respective platforms. We ask that you conform to widespread industry practice by giving parents increased ability to protect their vulnerable children.” Read a copy of the letter here.

Research increasingly demonstrates the negative impact that social media can have on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children and teenagers.  These range from decreased self-esteem and greater body-image dissatisfaction to increased exposure to cyberbullying and sexual predation.  One app reported that in 2021 it had analyzed more than 3.4 billion messages and found:

  • 43.09% of tweens and 74.61% of teens were involved in a self-harm/suicidal situation,
  • 68.97% of tweens and 90.73% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature,
  • 75.35% of tweens and 93.31% of teens engaged in conversations surrounding drugs/alcohol,
  • 80.82% of tweens and 94.50% of teens expressed or experienced violent subject matter/thoughts, and
  • 72.09% of tweens and 85.00% of teens experienced bullying as a bully, victim, or witness.

As the attorneys general note in their letter, “Parental control apps can alert parents or schools to messages and posts on your platforms that have the potential to be harmful and dangerous.  Apps can also alert parents if their child manifests a desire for self-harm or suicide.  On other platforms where these apps are allowed to operate appropriately, parents have received notifications of millions of instances of severe bullying and hundreds of thousands of self-harm situations, showing that these apps have the potential to save lives and prevent harm to our youth.”

Social media platforms already engage in some content moderation and operate under some community guidelines, but these are not always sufficient to protect children and teenagers who are particularly vulnerable to online threats, especially with regard to direct messaging.  Parental control apps empower parents to be full partners with the platforms to maintain a safe space online for their children.

TikTok & SnapChat Letter