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Sean D. Reyes
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Utah Celebrates American Indian Heritage Month

During November, the Utah Attorney General’s Office celebrates National American Indian Heritage Month, a time to honor the rich and varied cultures, traditions and contributions of Native Americans and Alaska Native peoples which enrich our nation and the great State of Utah.

Throughout his tenure, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes has been committed to upholding Native American culture. In defending the Indian Child Welfare Act, he protected tribal sovereignty while preserving the interests of Native American children. 

Additionally, the AGO has fought against federal overreach regarding national monument designations to safeguard the cultural heritage and sacred traditions of Utah tribal communities as well as secure major hunting rights for the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.

This month, we encourage Utahns to explore the invaluable impact Native Americans have made throughout history. Through this collective recognition, we can honor their contributions to our society and ensure a brighter future for us all.

These resources can help you learn more about Native American heritage: Library of Congress, Smithsonian, USDA, U.S. Senate, and the Division of Indian Affairs.

Utah Appeals Monuments Case to 10th Circuit

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced that his office filed a brief in Utah v. Biden over the president’s unlawful designation of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The legal action was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit after a District Court Judge ruled against the State’s position in August.

General Reyes issued the following statement:

All along, the State of Utah has sought appropriate safeguards for the precious, unique area in the heart of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante regions. But, the current designations don’t just protect objects and artifacts as intended by the Antiquities Act. They lock up millions of other acres of landscapes, vistas and similarly vague concepts never contemplated by the Act. 

President Biden’s designations are as large as several states—which far exceeds his authority and is an abuse of the Act. These areas already have federal protections and don’t need more. What the public doesn’t realize is larger monuments make it much harder to protect sacred areas and objects. 

These designations require resources, planning and input from stakeholders and all those affected. D.C. is not listening to the realities of management, safety and other local issues. 

We eagerly anticipate explaining to the Tenth Circuit why this is yet another example of federal overreach and how the law and facts favor more reasonable-sized monuments. 

Utah’s challenge argues that the size of the two national monuments, covering vast landscapes of a combined 3.2 million acres, violated the Antiquities Act of 1906, which limits U.S. presidents to creating monuments “confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

Both national monuments were created under the Clinton and Obama administrations, respectively. President Clinton designated approximately 1.7 million acres for the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and President Obama reserved about 1.35 million acres. In 2017, Utah state legislators passed two resolutions to reflect their constituents’ frustration with the reservations, urging then-President Donald Trump to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument in full and to modify the boundaries of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. President Trump reduced the two reservations (a combined 1.11 million acres) later that year to allow for more targeted protection of specific sites and to revive the multiple-use approach in the remaining areas.

However, in October 2021, President Biden issued two proclamations that substantially enlarged the borders of both National Monuments. Under the Biden administration’s new designations, the land included in the Bears Ears National Monument was 1.36 million acres, and the land included in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was 1.87 acres. Combined, the 3.23 million acres of land encompassed by the reservations were twice as large as Delaware, four times larger than Rhode Island, and just shy of the size of Connecticut.

Read the newest brief here.

The AGO Wishes Utahns a Safe and Happy Halloween

Halloween is often the scariest time of the year as many boys and girls dress up as their favorite spooky characters, families decorate their front yards with tombstones, skeletons and ghosts, and stores cater to consumers’ horror needs.

Here at the Utah Attorney General’s Office, it’s ‘Halloween’ year-round, as our agents and public servants work around the clock to protect law-abiding families and individuals against scary and bad actors seeking to harm unsuspecting victims. Here are some of the areas where we fight for Utahns!

  • Utah Trafficking in Persons Task Force: Attorney General Sean D. Reyes has been a leader and international voice in the fight against human trafficking. He continues to lead Utah to aggressively fight human trafficking through education campaigns, support of anti-human trafficking legislation, victim recovery, and advocacy. This is accomplished through grassroots and non-governmental organizations efforts, partnerships with local law enforcement officers and agencies, as well as work initiated by his office through the Utah Trafficking in Persons (UTIP) Task Force and prosecutors of the Utah SECURE Strike Force.
  • CASE Strike Force: The Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah Department of Public Safety are tasked with coordinating the operation of a multi-agency joint task force to combat criminal activity that may have a negative impact on the state’s economy. A team of investigators, highly qualified prosecutors, and support staff carry out this mandate as the Crimes Against State Economy Task Force (CASE).
  • Utah Opioid Task Force: Attorney General Sean Reyes organized the Utah Opioid Task Force in 2017 to combat the opioid epidemic. The Utah Opioid Task Force is a voluntary task force made up of representatives from partner agencies and organizations across the state. The task force’s mission is to fight opioid abuse through law enforcement, prosecution, proposed legislation, and innovation. The collaborative process brings together leaders to create solutions that tackle the opioid crisis with direct action.
  • ICAC Task Force: The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) is a multi-jurisdictional task force that investigates and prosecutes individuals who use the internet to exploit children. The task force is funded by a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and administered through the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
  • Utah CJC Program: The Utah Children’s Justice Center (CJC) Program is dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective, efficient, and that minimize trauma for the child. Administered by the Utah Attorney General, the Utah CJC Program oversees 25 locations that serve all 29 counties statewide.

Attorney General Reyes and everyone at the Utah Attorney General’s Office wish all Utahns a ‘Happy Halloween!’ Stay safe and have fun.

Take Back Day: Dispose of Old Prescriptions Safely

Tomorrow, the Utah Attorney General’s Office encourages Utahns to participate in National Take Back Day. This is an opportunity for people to safely dispose of unused, unwanted, or expired medications and unwanted e-cigarettes or vaping apparatuses. Find a Take Back drop-off location here.

Every year, Utah loses loved ones to drug overdoses, often associated with opioid addiction. Attorney General Sean D. Reyes has been unwavering in his passionate work to combat addiction and educate Utahns about legitimate painkiller use. 

“Prescription drug abuse, particularly for painkillers, has risen to epidemic levels nationwide, and Utah is no exception,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Prescription drugs, when administered and taken responsibly, can be a productive tool for pain management. But far too often, what begins innocently can lead to dependence and devastation.”

To drop off your unused medications, simply take them to a location using the DEA’s Take Back Day website.

Utah Argues at 6th Circuit in Proxy Voting Case Appeal

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Yesterday, the Utah Attorney General’s Office presented oral argument in U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. SEC at the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Utah Deputy Solicitor General Christopher Bates argued the case on behalf of a 26-state coalition supporting the U.S. Chamber, asking the appeals court to reverse a lower court decision upholding an SEC rule recission.  

In 2022, the SEC rescinded the 2020 Proxy Voting Advice Rule’s notice-and-awareness provisions. By revoking the proxy rule, the SEC has allowed large proxy voting advice businesses (PVABs) to continue promoting political objectives like environmental sustainability even though companies and clients are not given adequate notice or an opportunity to fully understand these recommendations before voting.  

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry filed a lawsuit in 2022 challenging the SEC’s proxy rule recission. A federal judge in the U.S. District Court Middle District of Tennessee ruled in favor of the SEC in April 2023, leading to the appeal to the Sixth Circuit.

After the hearing, Deputy Solicitor General Bates issued the following statement: “This is an important fight. Investors deserve timely, complete information about how their vote shares are being used and what causes proxy advisory firms are supporting. The Attorney General’s office joined this effort to bring greater transparency and accountability to these powerful proxy advisory firms, and we’ll continue to defend the interests of investors and all Utahns in open, free, and fair markets.” 

The State of Utah told the court that the 26-state coalition brought the challenge because states protect the interests of retail investors who invest their personal savings in financial markets, highlighting the States’ keen interest in ensuring PVAB transparency and accuracy. In his argument, Bates emphasized three points for the Court’s consideration: first, that transparency in PVAB recommendations is critically important; second, that investors need timely information to make informed voting decisions; and third, that the SEC changed its view about key facts between the 2020 rule and 2022 recission without an adequate explanation. 

Listen to the argument here. 

AG Reyes Announces Appeal in Retirement Investment/ESG Case

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced that his office would be appealing a U.S. District Court’s September ruling in Utah v. Su, which involves a challenge to a U.S. Department of Labor rule that would negatively affect the retirement accounts of millions of Americans. The federal government’s rule would allow 401(k) managers to direct their clients’ money to ESG (environmental, social, governance) investments, contrary to the requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

The State of Utah is joined by 25 states in the appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit – all of which were on the original lawsuit at the District Court level.

General Reyes issued the following statement:

Our coalition was deeply disappointed in the court’s ruling. Contrary to ERISA, the rule clearly exceeds DOL’s authority. The facts and legal arguments are still in our favor, and we look forward to our appeal prevailing in the Fifth Circuit.

Permitting asset managers to direct retirement funds from hard-working Americans into ESG investments puts trillions of dollars at risk in exchange for a radical climate agenda. Our citizens deserve real fiduciaries who manage funds to maximize value, not gamble with them for political gain. We are prepared to fight all the way to the Supreme Court to defend the hard-earned savings of our constituents.

The new rule from the Department of Labor, “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholding Rights,” took effect on January 30, 2023. Two-thirds of the U.S. population’s retirement savings accounts are believed to have been affected by this new regulation, totaling $12 trillion in assets. In its complaint, the coalition explained that the rule exceeds the Department’s statutory authority in violation of ERISA and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and is arbitrary, capricious, and irreconcilable with ERISA’s language.

Joining Utah on this appeal to the Fifth Circuit are the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read a copy of the appeal here.

Utah Sues Meta for Harming Children and Deceiving Parents

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox and Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc. and its subsidiary Instagram, LLC, over their flagship social media products, Facebook and Instagram. The state alleges that the social media giant violated the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act by designing platforms to trap children in excessive, harmful use that causes severe mental health issues. Meta also deceived parents and young users about the safety of using Instagram and Facebook.

The complaint, filed in state court, comes on the heels of a years-long multistate investigation by a bipartisan group of 42 State Attorneys General into Meta, culminating in nationwide filings today. In the Utah complaint, the Utah Department of Commerce’s Division of Consumer Protection alleges that Meta intentionally crafted products that bombard children with slot-machine-like functionalities, night-and-day alerts, and predatory features that merge into a perfect storm for excessive use. The suit also details how Meta’s refinement of these practices and its rise in market dominance has closely tracked with an alarming rise in adverse mental health symptoms among Utah children.

As alleged in the complaint, the unlawful business practices detailed in Utah’s filing are driven by Meta’s business model, which is premised on luring young users into extended use of its platforms so that the company can siphon important data and attention, all while targeting revenue-generating ads as precisely as possible. The complaint builds on information leaked to The Wall Street Journal in September 2021 that showed that Meta put “profits over safety” and that the company has known for years that its business practices were negatively impacting the health and well-being of young users. These documents and the information obtained through the state’s investigation starkly contrast with the misleading public reports Meta published, touting low rates of negative, harmful experiences and promising safety and security, particularly for young users.

The suit marks the second recent lawsuit against a major social media company filed by the Division of Consumer Protection.

“Just as litigation effectively spurred change by the opioid pharmaceutical industry and Big Tobacco, we expect this lawsuit will inspire Meta to improve its child safety practices,” Gov. Cox said. “Regulating social media companies to protect minors is not a partisan issue, and most people across the political spectrum agree we cannot allow addictive algorithms and deceptive practices to continue harming our children. This action shows we will continue to fight for the mental health and well-being of our kids.”

“Every burgeoning industry has a moment where they have to recognize the power they possess,” said Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “We are now seeing a generation that hasn’t known life without Meta’s products. With that growth comes a responsibility to protect our values and communities, particularly our kids. This lawsuit is a first step towards putting guardrails around a company that is in our homes, our schools, and our neighborhoods. I invite Meta to the table to right past wrongs and to take meaningful steps forward.”

The filing today alleges two separate counts:

  • Meta has, for years, carefully crafted a highly sophisticated platform to ensure that it effectively captured young children in harmful cycles of excessive use through deceptive and addictive features, constituting an unconscionable business practice under state law.
  • While attempting to maintain a public image as a stalwart of child well-being, Meta deceived parents and consumers about the risks of the platform and its attempts to ensnare our children’s attention and experience.

With its law enforcement partners nationwide, Utah seeks to finally hold Meta accountable for these alleged illegal acts and bring about meaningful changes to the company’s business practices. The complaint also asks the court to impose a penalty and other relief to ensure that Meta and other companies understand the significant consequences of targeting our youth.

The Division of Consumer Protection and the Office of the Attorney General continue investigating other social media platforms for similar conduct.

View the filing here.

AG Reyes Fights Bureaucratic and Costly Environmental Assessment Rule

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a comment letter to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), led by the State of Iowa, opposing the Proposed Rule for Phase Two Revisions of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The Proposed Rule was released on July 28, 2023. NEPA is the federal law that requires agencies to prepare environmental assessments and environmental impact statements for certain agency actions.

In their letter, the States argue that “the Proposed Rule increases uncertainty and imposes costs with little benefit” while “exceed[ing] CEQ’s authority…in a way that is harmful to broad and beneficial development.” Calling this action a “radical and illegal climate power grab,” the attorneys general explain that increased delays after implementation of the Rule “may cause stakeholders to experience monetary losses and force changes to project specifications, mitigation, or design.” They add that “[p]reconstruction delays for projects – whether they be for utility-scale solar or other energy infrastructure – may also impact the economy by hurting project timelines, domestic supply chains, and the jobs required to complete those projects.”

According to the attorneys general, “the Proposed Rule self-consciously acknowledges that this is a ‘broader rulemaking to revise, update, and modernize the NEPA implementing regulations.’ Among the goals and priorities embodied in the proposed rule are…ensuring climate change, environmental justice, and other environmental issues are fully accounted for in agencies’ decision-making process.” NEPA, however, is a procedural statute that is not intended to give agencies such broad powers.

Joining Utah and Iowa on the comment letter were the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the letter here.

Judge Rules for NW Band of Shoshone in Hunting Case 

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – This week, a panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation and the Utah Attorney General’s Office in a major hunting rights case involving an 1800s-era treaty.

The State of Idaho argued that the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 “conditions the reserved hunting right on permanent residence on a designated reservation, and that Northwestern Band members may not exercise the Tribes’ treaty-reserved hunting right because the Northwest Band does not reside on a designated reservation.” The State of Utah sided with both the Northwestern Band and the federal government, making the case that the Tribe reserved its right in the Treaty to hunt and fish on their ancestral territory. After a district court dismissed the matter, the Ninth Circuit reversed that decision and remanded the case for reconsideration.

According to the opinion authored by Judge Jennifer Sung, the appeals court panel concluded “that the 1868 Treaty does not make maintenance of the Tribes’ reserved hunting rights contingent on permanent residence on a designated reservation.” Judge Sung also wrote that “the Treaty’s terms…must be read in context and construed as they would naturally be understood by the tribes.”

Utah Constitutional Defense Assistant Attorney General Lance Sorenson argued the case in the appeals court on February 23, 2023.

Read the decision from the Ninth Circuit here.

AG Reyes Supports Petition Against Religious Discrimination

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined the State of Virginia in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States in Missouri Department of Corrections v. Finney. The coalition of attorneys general urges the nation’s high court to take this case, which involves a question of “discrimination on the basis of religion during voir dire.” 

Jean Finney sued her employer, the Missouri Department of Corrections, alleging that “she was improperly stereotyped and discriminated against based on sex.” During voir dire, Finney’s counsel asked potential jurors about their religious beliefs, highlighting three potential jurors who came from particular religious backgrounds for the judge to strike. The judge removed the jurors, and Finney won the case. The Department asked for a new trial based on the removal of the jurors, which the circuit court denied. The state Court of Appeals decided that there were no Constitutional infractions, leading to the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

In their brief, the attorneys general argue that “service on a jury is one of the most substantial opportunities citizens have to participate in the democratic process and should be protected” and that “the Fourteenth Amendment forbids striking jurors based on religious stereotypes.” 

The States write the following:

The message that striking jurors on the basis of their religion sends ‘to all those in the courtroom, and all those who may later learn of the discriminatory act, is that certain individuals, for no reason other than [religion], are presumed unqualified by state actors to decide important questions upon which reasonable persons could disagree.’ This Court should not stand idly by while such religious persecution exists. It should grant the petition and guarantee for people of faith the same guarantee of equal treatment in the jury box that this Court has guaranteed in other contexts.

Joining Utah and Virginia on this amicus brief were the States of Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, and West Virginia. 

Read the brief here.