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Sean D. Reyes
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Utah Attorney General’s Office Responds to Federal Judge’s Ruling on Monuments Case

Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office issued the following statement in response to Federal Judge David Nuffer’s ruling on the Monuments case:

“The Attorney General’s Office respectfully but strongly disagrees with the court’s order on the Monuments case today. We will appeal the dismissal in order to stand up against President Biden’s egregious abuse of the Antiquities Act.”

8/16/23 Update:

1  – AG Reyes Opposes Biden National Monument Creation: Read a broader monument designation statement from AG Reyes and the litigation team

2 – State of Utah Files Appeal in Monuments Case: Find out why and how this case is being appealed

AG Reyes Opposes Biden National Monument Creation

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – This week, President Biden announced the creation of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument, which is the fifth national monument formed under his administration. This latest designation covers over 917,000 acres, making it the largest new national monument for a first-term president. 

The previous national monuments created by the Biden administration were:

  • The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument (July 2023 – over 5 acres)
  • The Avi Kwa Ame National Monument (March 2023 – over 506,000 acres)
  • The Castner Range National Monument (March 2023 – over 6,600 acres)
  • The Camp Hale — Continental Divide National Monument (October 2022 – around 53,800 acres)

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has actively opposed the Biden administration’s efforts. In 2022, General Reyes filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah against President Biden’s unlawful designation of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The case argued 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.  As stated by AG Reyes:

Once again, President Biden expansively oversteps his authority under the Antiquities Act. As we have argued in our lawsuit challenging similar actions in Utah, we view protecting natural, cultural, and scientific features as a significant state stewardship. But the Act itself requires designation of the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of such interests.

In Utah, the lands being designated certainly have great value, including archeological, religious, recreational, commercial, and other uses that need to be respected and protected. But the Antiquities Act was not intended to be the vehicle for Presidents to unilaterally encumber massive tracts of land to the detriment of the very things they purport to protect.

Rather than guarding these diverse resources and uses, President Biden’s unlawful designations place all of them at greater risk as they fail to provide the funding and tools necessary to adequately conserve, protect, or manage them.

Congress is the appropriate place to bring local residents, tribes, leaders, and other interests together to evaluate how to best use and protect our public lands. Unfortunately, this designation in Arizona, like those in Utah, ignores the reasonable solution these diverse voices could produce and does so in conflict with the law.

AG Reyes recently joined two comment letters to the Bureau of Land Management opposing its proposed “Conservation and Landscape Health” rule on the grounds that the new policies would be “bad policy, unlawful, and would inflict immediate injuries on State, public, and small business interests.” Ben Burr, the Executive Director of the BlueRibbon Coalition, stated that this rule would essentially “sell off public lands to environmental groups who schemed up the 30 x 30 agenda,” which is an attempt to “justify locking up 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2023.” 

Statement From Utah’s Attorney General on Abortion Trigger Law Oral Arguments

Today, the Utah Supreme Court listened to oral arguments from the State of Utah, appealing an earlier-imposed preliminary injunction over Senate Bill 174, or the so-called “Abortion Trigger Law.”

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes stated, “The U.S Supreme Court returned the question of abortion to the state legislature. Oral argument today before the Utah Supreme Court grappled with the legislature’s ability to answer those important questions. We presented the best and most persuasive arguments on why the district court wrongly enjoined enforcement of SB174.

“We commend our counsel for her oral argument today and fine legal advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable. The final decision is now in the hands of the Court. We hope and encourage all who are interested in these difficult questions to respect the legal process.”

Times-Independent Features AG’s Grand-County Criminal Justice Center

Today, the Times-Independent helped the Utah Attorney General’s office shine a light on child abuse by releasing an insightful article on Grand County’s Criminal Justice Center (CJC). Featuring CJC Director Andrea Noyes, the news article focused on how Grand County, like Utah’s statewide network of 25 CJCs, offers a safe place for young victims of child abuse and sexual assault to share their stories and provide evidence against perpetrators.

View the complete Times-Independent article or read below.

August 03, 2023

By Sophia Fisher

Children’s Justice Center Director Andrea Noyes harnesses her background in law enforcement and social work to assist children who have experienced abuse.

For Andrea Noyes, the Children’s Justice Center is a place where kids can be heard.

“The kiddos need a place to have a voice and somebody that believes them,” said Noyes, hired this spring as the center’s director.

Sitting in what might aptly be called the center’s living room — decorated with a soft rug, child-sized tables and chairs, games, toys and books — it certainly feels like a place where kids are welcome. It needs to be, as it’s also a place children might find themselves on the worst day of their lives.

What is the CJC?

Founded in 1999, Grand County’s Children’s Justice Center is a space for children who have experienced abuse or witnessed crimes to share their stories in a safe, comfortable environment. Part of a statewide program administered by the Utah Attorney General’s Office, it’s one of 25 such centers across the state created to reduce the additional trauma children bore when reporting physical or sexual abuse.

“They’ve done research in the past that [shows] how law enforcement used to investigate crimes against children was actually super traumatic,” said Noyes. “They would have to go talk to a detective and then they’d have to talk to a prosecutor, then they’d have to be put on the stand. They’d have to … tell their story multiple times.”

To minimize that pain, the Children’s Justice Center provides a space for specially-trained interviewers to speak with the child. The interviews are recorded and shared with relevant parties, such as law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, so there’s no need for a child to possibly relive the trauma in subsequent tellings.

The interview room, down the hall from the main space, features subdued lighting, soft chairs and inconspicuous recording equipment. There’s also a box of crayons and colored pencils by a stack of paper. Noyes said those tools can help if a child clams up.

“We’ve found that especially for our kiddos that are male, if they’re only focused on how nervous they are to talk about things, they kind of shut down,” Noyes said. “But if they’re distracted and coloring and doing something, they’ll tell you everything that’s gone on.”

The center also includes a fully equipped medical room where specialized nurses from the Primary Children’s Hospital can examine children for signs of abuse. Noyes said the space, and the out-of-town care, is particularly helpful for older survivors.

“Not all of our kiddos are eight,” she said. “We have 16-year-olds that come through here … they don’t necessarily want to go to the Moab hospital and see six of the nurses that they know and then go to City Market and see them.”

While interviews and exams are the core of the Children’s Justice Center, Noyes emphasized that the program — which is fully independent of law enforcement and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services — aims to remain a support system for the entire family throughout the investigation and possible prosecution of abuse.

That process can last years. In the meantime, the center screens children for signs of trauma or suicidality, connects the family with community services, and continues to advocate for the child.

“It’s nothing but support onto that family so they don’t have to go through and navigate this alone,” Noyes said.

Shining a light

While no community is immune from child abuse, Noyes told the Grand County Commission that Utah has, by some measurements, the third-highest rate of child sexual abuse in the nation.

That’s based on a 2019 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found 14.3% of Utah high school students had experienced sexual violence in the last year — a higher percentage than any state except Idaho and California.

“This is something that I want to make my mission to try to help lower,” Noyes told the commission June 20.

In a later interview, Noyes said in the past few months she’s noted one particular kind of abuse taking hold: older men who solicit girls on the internet before meeting up in-person.

“Because our pre-teens, like sixth, seventh, eighth grade have phones, have social media, these 24-, 25-year-old males see them as a vulnerable group,” Noyes said, “and they have access to them and then crimes are being committed.”

She praised the Grand County Sheriff’s Office’s work with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and urged parents to pay attention to their teens’ phone use. (See related sidebar.)

More broadly, Noyes said she’s hoping to bolster conversation around a taboo topic. She said when she tells someone about her job, eight out of 10 times the person will start talking about an abuse.

“I think people want to be able to talk about it,” Noyes said. “But it is taboo so people don’t know what settings they can talk about it in.”

Noyes exhorted residents to report any suspected child abuse to local law enforcement. She said even if the abuser him- or herself is young, bringing the situation to light can stop a protracted line of abuses.

“If you know a five-year-old that’s abusing a three-year-old, the likeliness is that they’re getting abused,” Noyes said. “So it’s important to report it because we might be able to save a lot of kiddos from abuse who are being abused by much older people.”

It’s also crucial to take seriously children who vocalize abuse. Noyes said one of the highest indicators of an abused child’s later success in life is having an adult who believed them.

“If your kiddo comes to you with abuse, even if you don’t believe them right away — by all appearance if you can show up for them, if you can listen to them, and your kiddo believes that you believe them, the success rates are through the roof,” Noyes said.

Moving forward

Right now, Noyes isn’t restricted to Grand County; she also serves San Juan County from a satellite office in Blanding.

On July 18, however, the San Juan County Commission voted to sign a memorandum of understanding that would establish a new Children’s Justice Center in the county. San Juan County Administrator Mack McDonald said the county received varying levels of attention from the Grand County center and that he thinks child abuse is being underreported.

“If you look at our cases dwindling here, I think it’s actually the opposite,” he said.

Grand County’s contract with San Juan ends Oct. 1, the target date for the county to open its own center.

Noyes said the splitting-off could provide each county with more resources to help some of their most vulnerable residents: children.

“If an adult’s a victim of a crime, an adult can pick up the phone, they can make a phone call and then can kind of self-serve through the whole process,” Noyes said, sitting in the center’s light-filled space. “Kiddos can’t do that — they need an advocate.”

AG Reyes Charges Utah Man for Collecting Construction Deposits Without Performing Work

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has charged 57-year-old Patrick M. Brody with nine counts of Communications Fraud and one count of Pattern of Unlawful Activity for accepting unfinished construction project downpayments.

Brody collected more than $200,000 from nine remodeling customers despite failing to start or complete any work. During December 2020 and October 2021, Brody’s scheme is believed to have victimized at least 25 clients.

In 2013, Brody served time in federal prison after being convicted of a real estate investment fraud scheme. Without disclosing his prior conviction, Brody partnered with Cornerstone Construction.

Read the charging documents here.

Read the news coverage here.

Read Brody’s previous conviction news release here.

AG Reyes Signs Letter Objecting to SVB/Signature Bank Bailouts as Reckless

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a comment letter to the Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), led by the state of Oklahoma, opposing the FDIC’s proposed rule imposing a special assessment on FDIC-insured banks to pay for the bailout of uninsured depositors of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank (Signature).

In March of this year, SVB and Signature abruptly closed, making them two of the largest bank failures in our nation’s history — and the most significant since the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. Shortly thereafter, the Biden administration announced it would invoke the “systemic risk exception” (SRE) to reimburse uninsured depositors (i.e., depositors with more than $250,000 in their account) for their losses. The special assessment, if finalized by the FDIC, would recoup the FDIC’s losses from the bailout through a fee imposed on other FDIC-insured banks.

In their letter, the attorneys general argue that “the Federal Government’s reckless decision to invoke a systemic risk exception to bail out the elite clientele of SVB and Signature will have far-reaching and disastrous consequences” and that “the FDIC’s misguided priorities and neglect in oversight caused the crisis that predicated the invocation of a SRE to bail out SVB and Signature.”

The States write that “it is fundamentally unfair to pass on special assessment costs to other banking institutions who engaged in responsible business practices, unlike SVB and Signature. The States reiterate that it would be even more fundamentally unfair to pass on special assessment costs to community banks.”

Joining Oklahoma and Utah were the states of Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.

Read the letter here.

AG’s ICAC Officers at Grantsville’s Night Out Against Crime

This week, the Utah Attorney General’s Office supports law enforcement’s National Night Out Against Crime, an annual event to strengthen community relationships and boost crime prevention awareness.

On Tuesday, our Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force joined forces with the Grantsville Police Department and the Tooele County Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department to answer questions about increasing security in our neighborhoods. Our ICAC officers enjoy educating families about online safety.

This year, the newest ICAC team member, Agent Echo, joined in to greet people. Echo, an electronics-detecting K-9, can sniff out hidden electronic devices during investigations.

Challenge to State’s Age Verification Law Dismissed

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — Today, in a victory for the rule of law, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announces that U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the State’s requirement that pornography websites and other providers of harmful material to minors verify the ages of those accessing their websites. 

Several plaintiffs, such as the Free Speech Coalition, which represents the porn industry, filed the lawsuit in May after the Utah legislature passed SB 287, a bill intended to protect young people from the harmful effects of pornography by requiring “reasonable age verification methods to verify the age of an individual attempting to access the material.” The State then moved to dismiss the lawsuit.

In its ruling, the Court reaffirmed a critical aspect of the separation of governmental powers — a federal court may only decide appropriate cases or controversies and not issue advisory opinions concerning the law. For this reason, the Court held that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because plaintiffs brought their lawsuit against defendants who are not charged with enforcing the law. In other words, there was no proper case or controversy before the Court. This provision of federal court jurisdiction helps to ensure that the judiciary does not inappropriately wade into the policy-making prerogatives of the legislative and executive branches.

General Reyes issued the following statement: “I applaud Judge Stewart’s decision. It is well-reasoned and consistent with other case law denying pre-enforcement challenges against public officials. Regarding the policy at issue, the innocence and safety of our children are paramount and worth protecting ardently. That is what our legislature did in passing S.B. 287, and that is what my office will continue to do when anyone attempts to undermine these reasonable safeguards for our children.” 

AG Reyes Backs Effort to Halt Chevron Doctrine ‘Once and For All’

This week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an amicus brief, led by the State of West Virginia, in support of Loper Bright Enterprises. The brief was filed at the U.S. Supreme Court in Loper v Raimondo—a case of massive significance to the future of the Constitution and the separation of powers.

Loper Bright Enterprises is a fishing company based out of New England. Due to a National Marine Fisheries Service regulation, it was forced to hire a monitor on its boats. Loper filed suit against this edict but lost in the lower courts. In its decision, the D.C. Circuit deferred to the agency’s interpretation of the governing statute under the so-called Chevron doctrine, which instructs courts to defer to agency interpretations of ambiguous statutes rather than independently determine the proper meaning of the statute. Over the years, the Chevron doctrine has given vast power to government bureaucrats to regulate ever broader swaths of our economy and society. Loper is seeking relief at the U.S. Supreme Court, attempting to persuade the Court to jettison the Chevron doctrine once and for all. 

General Reyes issued the following statement: “I have stated many times before that the Chevron doctrine is one of the greatest threats to individual liberty. For far too long, it has been wielded by big government proponents, unaccountable federal bureaucrats, and activist courts to destroy the freedoms of hard-working Americans and rob local control from our states.

“It is high time we rein in the nearly unchecked discretion of federal agencies to subversively disregard both the letter and intent of Congressional mandates in furthering their own political agendas or personal interests. We must de-activate the weaponization of agency power.

“I’m thankful for this coalition of attorneys general, and fervently hope the U.S. Supreme Court takes this case and strikes down this unconstitutional doctrine.”

In their brief, the attorneys general argue that the Chevron doctrine “has inflicted real and lasting damage on the States, on our citizens and businesses, on our ‘separation of powers,’ and, ultimately, on ‘our Constitution and the individual liberty it protects.’” The States write, “Rather than continuing to offer their ‘best independent judgment of [each] law’s meaning,’ courts began using Chevron as an ‘excuse[]…to abdicate their job of interpreting the law.’ … By giving ‘more policy discretion and law-making authority to administrative agencies,’ the decision changed ‘the nature of American government without the benefit of a constitutional amendment.’ Whatever limited reach the Court might have originally intended for it, Chevron quickly stretched to its furthest bounds.”

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

Read the brief here.

AG Reyes Joins Amicus Supporting Tennessee and Kentucky Laws Prohibiting Gender-Modification Procedures for Minors

This week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an amicus brief led by the States of Alabama and Arkansas, in support of Tennessee’s and Kentucky’s laws that “prohibit healthcare providers from performing sex-modification surgeries on and administering sex-modification hormones to minors.” The States filed the brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit after district courts struck down the laws in both Tennessee and Kentucky. 

The coalition of States argue that the district courts made two primary mistakes in adjudicating against Tennessee’s and Kentucky’s laws. First, the courts “assumed that heightened scrutiny (under the Equal Protection Clause) applies whenever a ‘minor’s sex at birth determines whether or not the minor can receive certain types of medical care.’” Second, the courts “relied on the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care and the imprimatur of American medical interest groups to find that laws prohibiting sex-modification procedures for children fail heightened scrutiny.”  

In their brief, the attorneys general assert that certain courts (including the two in these cases) are attempting to force States, under the guise of the Fourteenth Amendment, to adopt nightmarish Standards of Care from WPATH. They write, “Thankfully, the Constitution does not put WPATH in charge of regulating medicine in Kentucky, Tennessee, or anywhere else. While a ‘legislative committee’ is free to consider WPATH’s position, the organization’s say-so does not ‘shed light on the meaning of the Constitution.’ … Amici write in support of the well-established authority that States have to enact health and welfare laws—even ones that conflict with WPATH’s horrifying standards.” 

Joining Alabama, Arkansas, and Utah in filing this brief were the States of Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia. 

Read the Kentucky brief here.

Read the Tennessee brief here.