Opinion rejects federal efforts to paint State’s claims as untimely;
case headed to federal district court for resolution of claims.
SALT LAKE CITY July 27, 2017 – In an opinion filed on July 26, the Utah Supreme Court agreed with the State of Utah and some of its Counties in their dispute against the federal government about the State’s ownership of historic roads across federal land. As federal law allows, the State and its Counties sued the United States to obtain title to more than 10,000 such roads—roads still used today for recreation, ranching, sightseeing, hunting, and fishing, among other things. But the United States, joined by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, argued that the State’s and Counties’ title claims were untimely based on a provision of Utah law that never had been applied to such claims.
The Utah Supreme Court’s opinion rejects the federal government’s efforts to paint the State’s claims as untimely under Utah law. According to the Court, the United States’ and SUWA’s arguments “would effectively deprive the State of its” claims to thousands of roads—even roads that have existed and been used for more than 100 years. The Court called that result “completely nonsensical” and “so overwhelmingly absurd that no rational legislator could ever be deemed to have supported” it.
“I applaud the Utah Supreme Court’s common-sense decision in this important case,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “The Court correctly recognized the absurdity of the federal government’s arguments, which have now added two years of delay and taxpayer expense to the State’s efforts to obtain the title to roads that federal law has long promised. I hope the Court’s decision convinces the United States now to work collaboratively and quickly with Utah and its Counties to resolve these title claims.”
The Utah Supreme Court’s opinion is styled Garfield County v. United States of America, 2017 UT 41. The case will now go to Utah’s federal district court for resolution of the State’s and Counties’ title claims.
Read the opinion here.
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SALT LAKE CITY July 13, 2017 — Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement on the passing of Assistant Attorney General Wade Farraway today:
“It is with deep sadness and extreme regret that we observe the passing of our office’s one and only Wade Farraway. Wade leaves tremendous holes in our hearts and in the office as he had an extremely rare ability to understand not only the layers of government but also the diverse personalities of those who make decisions impacting all of us in the Attorney General’s Office. Wade was a true friend with exceptional talents as a creative thinker and intense listener. He was willing to sit down with anyone and listen to their needs and then offer possible solutions. Wade’s huge heart and love for all of his family, friends, and associates will be sorely missed.”
At the time of his passing, Wade was Director of Government Relations for the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
After working as a prosecutor in Washington County, Wade joined the Utah Attorney General’s Office Criminal Division in 1999 and over the years has served in various areas of the office and in several leadership positions, including as Section Chief of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. In 2011, he joined a new position in Consumer Enforcement to lead efforts against unlawful foreclosures. In 2016, with his natural skills working with government, legislators, and constituents, AG Reyes asked him to be the Director of Government Relations.
He died of natural causes at his home in Layton. This post will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.
|SALT LAKE CITY July 7, 2017 – After a two-day trial, a jury returned guilty verdicts on June 28, 2017, against David Bryce Jones for financially exploiting his elderly father who resides in a local assisted living facility, the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) announced today. During the trial, Assistant Attorney’s General Robert Morton and Robert Steed presented evidence that Jones used his father’s retirement funds to pursue a risky restaurant business venture and to pay his personal expenses while his father’s bills at the assisted living facility went unpaid.
“Our office is committed to protecting Utah’s most vulnerable citizens, this often includes our children and our elderly citizens who are targeted for their resources during a time of vulnerability,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. I am proud of our prosecutors and staff for achieving this result.”
“This was a case about trust,” said Assistant Attorney General Robert Morton. “The son signed a power of attorney with his father in 2010. He knew his duty was to take care of his father’s most basic needs and instead he took care of himself.”
“When we learned what was happening, we worked with our partners at Adult Protective Services and the Office of Public Guardian to manage the father’s resources and keep him in a safe and appropriate environment,” said MFCU Director Robert Steed. “The victim worked hard to be prepared for retirement and provide for a comfortable life in his old age. Sadly we see far too many instances where family members feel entitled to use their parent’s resources for personal use while placing their parents at risk of losing essential resources and services.”
During the trial, agents with the MFCU, Adult Protective Services, and the Office of Public Guardian gave evidence it had obtained a court order 2014 to act as the victim’s guardian and to assure his needs were being met.
The jury found Jones guilty of Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult, a second-degree felony and the Unlawful Dealing of Property by a Fiduciary, also a second-degree felony.
Jones will appear before Third District Judge James Blanch on September 14, 2017, for sentencing. Each conviction carries a maximum possible prison term of 1- 15 years.
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SALT LAKE CITY July 5, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes announces that Chief Federal Deputy and General Counsel Parker Douglas has been named the 2017-2018 Fellow assigned to the Supreme Court of the United States, where he will serve in the Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice.
“We congratulate Parker Douglas on this amazing opportunity to serve as a Fellow at the United States Supreme Court. It is a highly competitive process to be even considered for such a position and only the truly brightest and best of the legal community are accepted. Due to his past Ph.D. work in academia, his Supreme Court experience as a lawyer and the many successful cases he has litigated around the country, Parker has been chosen for this prestigious role. It is quite an honor for Utah to be represented at the High Court with someone in that role.
“From the very beginning of my administration, Parker has been an invaluable member of our executive team. He has demonstrated tremendous skill, creativity, and success in litigating seminal cases for our office. All the while, he has exhibited compassion for citizens, a love for the law and a deep commitment to public service. Before he came to our office, Parker was a Federal Public Defender who handled high-profile matters like the Elizabeth Smart case, wherein he defended her abductor Brian David Mitchell.
“In him, the Supreme Court Fellow Program gains a rigorous intellectual who is above all a wonderful human being. Though our office will feel the loss, I wish Parker and his family the best as he takes on this new challenge. Following his fellowship, he will join former Michigan Solicitor General, John Bursch, in forming a new law firm focused on constitutional litigation and appeals work.“
The Supreme Court Fellows Program offers mid-career professionals, recent law school graduates, and doctoral degree holders from the law and political science fields an opportunity to broaden their understanding of the judicial system through exposure to federal court administration.
Douglas’ last day with the Utah Attorney General’s Office was June 30, 2017.
“Each year, I look forward to Independence Day and am reminded of our nation’s humble, spiritual roots. Our Republic’s founders came from diverse backgrounds and origins. And despite their differences, they united to build a legacy of liberty and freedom that has stood the test of time. As we celebrate Independence Day—with fireworks, parades, and backyard barbeques—I pray we will appreciate the God-given blessings of liberty and opportunity that have made America a shining city on a hill; a light to inspire the oppressed and attract immigrants who have in turn enriched our culture and our country.
“May we also honor those who have sacrificed and served, and those who continue to serve at home and abroad, to preserve our liberty and prosperity. This includes our men and women of the military along with law enforcement and first responders. We always owe a debt to those who confront danger to allow us to live in peace and security.
“As we celebrate on this extended weekend, please be careful, responsible and patient, particularly on the roads.
“God bless America.”
|SALT LAKE CITY June 27, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes joined West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and 19 other state attorneys general to issue the following statement regarding the repeal of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States Rule.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Tuesday signed a notice to withdraw the Obama-era rule.
“The Attorneys General of the States of West Virginia, Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky applaud the action of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) today in beginning to withdraw the unlawful waters of the United States rule (“WOTUS Rule”).
“We fully support the proposed rule signed by EPA Administrator Pruitt today as a significant step in the direction of withdrawing the unlawful WOTUS Rule.
“The WOTUS Rule asserts sweeping federal authority over usually dry channels, roadside ditches, and isolated streams. The Rule also asserts federal authority over land covered by water only once every one hundred years.
“The rule’s broad assertion of authority unlawfully impinges on the States’ traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources. The WOTUS Rule is unlawful under the Clean Water Act, U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and the U.S. Constitution.
“Our States won a nationwide stay blocking enforcement of the rule and allowing the new administration time to work on withdrawing the rule.
“We look forward to EPA’s final action withdrawing the WOTUS Rule and providing relief for our States and their citizens.”
The public benefit, in this case, was grant money from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to subsidize pour-in-place rubber surfaces for playgrounds. Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri applied for a grant to resurface its preschool playground from pea gravel to the softer rubber surface. Trinity Lutheran’s application ranked fifth out of more than a dozen submitted that year, but the Department denied the application solely because a church operated the preschool. By a 7-2 vote, the Court concluded that the Department’s actions violated the church’s rights under the Free Exercise Clause.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling makes it clear that States cannot force churches to choose between their ecclesiastical missions and obtaining generally available public benefits,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Churches need not forswear their religious identities to receive generally available public benefits, such as fire or police protection, access to public utilities — or funds for safe playground surfaces. I applaud the Court’s ruling on this important Free Exercise Clause issue.”
The decision, with the majority opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Samuel Anthony Alito Jr., and Elena Kagan, can be found here (PDF). Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, in an opinion joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch joined the opinion in full, except for a footnote. Justice Stephen G. Breyer concurred in the judgment and wrote a separate opinion.
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SALT LAKE CITY June 21, 2017 — The Office of the Attorney General released the following statement congratulating Utah Attorney General Division Director Susan Eisenman on her Utah Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Third District Juvenile Court:
“My congratulations to Director Eisenman on her confirmation. Susan has been an amazing leader for our office and for the state and we are sad to see her leave our office,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “She is no-nonsense but fair and compassionate; meticulous yet remarkably efficient. Susan also possesses the rare combination of a brilliant legal mind, tremendous judgment and creativity in problem-solving and the ability to manage people in a most nurturing and productive way. Her clients, her division and all in the Utah Attorney General’s Office will feel her departure deeply. Nevertheless, we are thrilled by her appointment, and we know that she will serve the people of Utah from the bench with dignity, dedication, and brilliance, as she has throughout her career.”
Chief Civil Deputy Bridget Romano also commented: “I have known Susan Eisenman for several years now. She has been a trusted colleague, and one of my most valuable and creative managers. I cannot begin to fathom the hole that will be left in the office by her absence. The bench gains a tremendous legal mind and advocate for the interests of Utah’s children and the needs of the families. I wish Susan nothing but the best.”
SALT LAKE CITY June 20, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes joined a 20-state coalition in requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency preserve the role of the states in protecting the nation’s water sources.
The coalition filed its letter Monday as part of the EPA’s ongoing review of its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The attorneys general outlined regulatory overreach present in the existing rule and offered suggestions to better respect the authority of states going forward.
“The WOTUS Rule is unlawful…and significantly impinges upon the States’ traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources within their borders,” Attorney General Reyes joined in writing. “We write to suggest how the [EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] can write a rule that respects Congress’s instruction.”
The letter requests a concrete definition of the term “waters of the United States.” In doing so, it suggests the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers should preserve the states’ role in protecting water resources, especially those within the border of individual states.
The attorneys general also suggest any final definition should adopt a framework consistent with Supreme Court precedent. That includes that federal agencies can only assert authority over permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water forming geographic features.
The letter expresses that rather than claiming jurisdiction over vast amounts of water and land, EPA and Army Corps of Engineers should consider the active role each state already plays in safeguarding its waterways.
The Obama-era regulation, if implemented, would have taken jurisdiction over natural resources from states and put it in the hands of federal agencies. This included almost any body of water, such as isolated streams, hundred-year floodplains, and roadside ditches.
Many of these states won a nationwide stay that blocked enforcement of the rule and proved crucial in providing time for a new administration to reconsider the rule.
Utah Attorney General Reyes signed the letter with West Virginia, Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas.
Read a copy of the letter at http://bit.ly/2tGljKk.
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Could receive life in prison for aggravated robbery charge
WEBER COUNTY, Utah June 12, 2017 – The Office of the Utah Attorney General (OAG) announced today that Kacy Peterson, 48, of Ogden, Utah pleaded guilty last week to a First Degree Felony charge of aggravated robbery and a Third Degree Felony for forgery on an insurance fraud case. The ATM case stems from a tip to OAG investigators in late October 2016.
Peterson, with conspirators, decided to use a Taser to attack an ATM worker, steal the ATM worker’s keys, and take the cash held in the machine. However, before the conspirators could execute their plan to attack the ATM worker, OAG investigators obtained warrants and arrested them.
On the insurance fraud case, Peterson sent fraudulent emails, claiming to be his insurance representative, to a rental car company with the purpose to defraud the company.
Peterson is scheduled to be sentenced on both cases on July 31, 2017. For the aggravated robbery charge, he faces five years to life in the state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. For forgery, Peterson could be sentenced from zero to five years in the state prison and receive a fine of up to $5,000. This case was prosecuted by the Special Prosecution Section and Insurance Fraud Section of the OAG Justice Division.