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District Court Rules Utah Law to be Constitutional, Dismisses Lawsuit

The Utah Department of Commerce and the Office of the Utah Attorney General Successfully Defend State Law Implemented in 2011 Amending the Utah Construction Trades Licensing Act

SALT LAKE CITY Nov. 19, 2014 — The Utah Department of Commerce and the Office of the Utah Attorney General successfully defended a constitutional challenge to portions of Utah’s Construction Trades Licensing Act. On Nov. 18, 2014, in a 34-page decision, the Honorable Judge Robert J. Shelby of the United States District Court for the District of Utah ruled that the challenged portions of the Utah Law were not preempted by federal law, denying Universal Contracting’s claims and dismissing the lawsuit.

In 2011, the Utah Legislature passed amendments to the Utah Construction Trades Licensing Act, creating sanctions for unincorporated entities with owners who are not lawfully present in the United States and engaged in the construction trade in Utah.  The legislation was sponsored by Utah Sen. Karen Mayne and Utah Rep. Todd Kiser.  Unincorporated entities found to be in violation of the Act face possible license revocation, as well as criminal and civil penalties. The Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing within the Utah Department of Commerce is responsible for regulating Utah’s construction trades and enforcing the provisions of the Act.

“This particular case took great insight and expertise by all involved. I’d like to thank the Utah Department of Commerce and the very talented attorneys and staff in our office who skillfully defended state law,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes.

“The Department of Commerce and our Division Directors are grateful for the hard work and steadfast dedication on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office under Sean Reyes’ continued leadership.  This court ruling was a win for both licensees and the public as the mission of the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing is to ensure contractors abide by the law to provide a level playing field for business throughout Utah,” stated Francine A. Giani, Executive Director, Utah Department of Commerce.

In 2012, Universal Contracting, LLC, brought suit in Utah’s Federal District Court, arguing, inter alia, that the Utah’s 2011 immigration related amendments were preempted by federal law. More specifically, Universal Contracting argued that the amendments were preempted by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), under that law’s express preemption provisions, and because the amendments were in conflict with certain provisions of the IRCA. The Utah Department of Commerce and the Office of the Utah Attorney General argued that State licensing laws are expressly exempted from the IRCA and that Utah’s amendments were not in conflict with federal law. Judge Shelby agreed, entering judgment in favor the Department of Commerce and dismissing all of Universal Contracting’s claims.

Assistant Attorney General Judith Jensen was lead counsel for the State of Utah on behalf of the Department of Commerce, assisted by Utah Solicitor General Bridget Romano, Assistant Attorney General Blaine Ferguson, Assistant Attorney General Ché Arguello, and Assistant Attorney General Sterling Corbett.

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