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Sean D. Reyes
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Utah AG Joins Bipartisan Coalition in Defending Law that Protects Native American Children

January 18, 2019


SALT LAKE CITY – On Monday, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a bipartisan coalition of 21 states in filing an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to defend the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in Brakeen v. Zinke. ICWA is a 40-year-old federal law that furthers the best interests of Native American children and protects the sovereignty of Indian tribes by preserving children’s connections to their tribal heritage.
“The future of our Native American nations relies upon their youth learning and integrating the proud history, traditions and culture of their people within our broader society. ICWA accomplishes this while still providing needed protections to indigenous children,” said Attorney General Reyes. “I’m pleased to work in a bipartisan effort with sister states to defend this law. ICWA works in Utah. The State supports it and our First Nation friends support it. ICWA properly balances the safety and needs of children along with tribal and societal interests.”  
First enacted in 1978, ICWA was a response to a history of culturally insensitive and ignorant removal of Indian children from their birth families.i This resulted in the separation of Indian children from not only their families, but their tribes and heritage as well. ICWA’s purpose is to “protect the best interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards” to be utilized in child welfare proceedings involving Native American children.ii 

Attorney General Reyes continued, “It’s imperative Native American youth stay with their families and tribes whenever possible. There is tremendous cultural importance in this for the children and the nations. As one with heritage from a Native people, I am sensitive to this issue. The Native Hawaiian language was almost lost forever, until it was once again taught to our children in schools and at home.”
In this case, individual plaintiffs, along with the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and its now-former Secretary Ryan Zinke to challenge the law. In October 2018, the district court for the Northern District of Texas agreed and struck down much of ICWA on constitutional grounds. The brief filed today by Attorney General Reyes and 21 other Attorneys General argues that ICWA is an appropriate exercise of Congress’s broad authority to legislate in the field of Indian affairs and does not violate the Tenth Amendment or equal protection principles. The brief also highlights ICWA’s important role in reducing disparities in child removal rates and improving the collaboration between states and tribes relating to their shared interest in improving the health and welfare of Native American children.iii
Attorney General Reyes joined the Attorneys General of California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin in filing the brief. 

# # #

i. About ICWA » NICWA. (n.d.) Retrieved from
ii. Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). (n.d.). Retrieved from
iii. A copy of the brief can be found here:

Photo Credit: Romel Jacinto

Utah Opioid Litigation: RFP Findings and Contract

January 11, 2019

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has issued its Opioid RFP Procurement Findings as well as its Opioid RFP Contract with Motley Rice, LLC; Fears Nachawati; Ferrer, Poirot & Wansbrough; and Prince, Yeats & Geldzahler.

Both can be viewed here:

The State of Utah filed a lawsuit last May against Purdue Pharma in Carbon County, one of the counties hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.  For a quick overview of this office’s work to combat the opioid crisis (as of March 2018), click here

January 11th: Human Trafficking Awareness Day

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The Utah Attorney General’s Office, in partnership with the Trafficking in Persons Program, Refugee & Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, and the Utah Trafficking in Persons (UTIP) Task Force, will present a series of commentaries to educate and engage the public on the realities and complex dynamics of human trafficking.

Recognizing and Reporting

Human trafficking, by its criminal nature, is secretive. Traffickers use “invisible ropes” involving complex manipulative tactics to control their victims. If human trafficking in Utah doesn’t typically involve the use of handcuffs, chains, cages, locked rooms, or shipping containers that books and movies might use to portray the subject, how can we recognize it?

 First, before addressing the red flags which may indicate human trafficking and what someone observing red flags can do, remember Rule #1: Keep yourself safe. Do not place yourself in danger. Never confront a suspected trafficker.

If you can safely observe a suspicious situation, recognize the red flags, and report them to the proper authorities, you can make a difference. Most of the successful human trafficking cases prosecuted through the Attorney General’s office have started with a tip from a concerned citizen.

There are a number of red flags that, in and of themselves, may not be too sinister. But as the red flags pile up, they may begin to indicate a trafficking situation. Pay particular attention to any situation where:

  • A person is recruited for work with grand and unlikely promises;
  • A person works excessive hours for little or no pay;
  • A person exhibits signs of untreated illness or injuries;
  • A person is not in control of his or her identification, immigration, or travel documents;
  • A person exchanges sex to meet basic needs, e.g., food, clothing, or shelter;
  • A person’s behavior appears to be controlled or fearful;
  • A younger person travels with an older boyfriend or companion who seems particularly watchful or controlling;
  • A person suddenly acquires expensive and/or revealing clothing, jewelry, or electronics, without explanation for how they obtained the products;
  • A person’s communication is restricted and she or he is unable to speak separately or alone;
  • A person owes money to her or his employer;
  • A person says they “can’t quit” their job because of fear of some great harm, such as deportation;
  • A person demonstrates sudden changes in behavior.

These red flags are not uncommon. Any given day we could encounter someone we suspect might be a victim of human trafficking—either for labor or sexual exploitation—while we are at a park, at the mall, on a bus or train, or even at school. If it can be done safely, consider asking some questions that will elicit helpful information without appearing to be inquiring about human trafficking. Ask about where they are from, where they live now, or with whom they live. If they are traveling with a suspicious companion, ask how they met. If they have tattoos—which can be used to brand or identify a trafficker’s victims—ask about them, what do they mean, when did they get them, what’s the story behind them.

If the conversation proceeds to uncover additional red flags, and circumstances permit—remember not to place yourself in danger or ask too specific of questions while a suspected trafficker is within hearing range—move to deeper, more targeted questions.  Ask if they have ever been forced to do work that they did not want to do, or if they have ever worked in a place where the work was different from what they were promised it would be. Ask if anyone takes all or part of the money they earn. Has anyone threatened them or their family? Are they in possession of their identification and travel documents, or does someone else have control over those documents? Has anyone ever taken photos of them and put them on the internet?  Have they ever exchanged sex for food, shelter, drugs, or money? Ask if they feel trapped in their situation. 

Traffickers rely on the general public not asking questions, not recognizing the red flags, and simply looking the other way. Simple conversation with someone we might suspect is a victim of human trafficking can provide valuable insights into the situation. Details and red flags identified from a conversation can then be passed on to law enforcement officers who can further investigate and determine whether human trafficking is taking place. 

On January 22nd we’ll host a lunchtime panel discussion – Brown Bag: Human Trafficking 101. Please join us as we cover more information on the topic of recognizing and reporting human trafficking. Watch our Facebook page for details.

To report tips regarding human trafficking, please contact the Utah Attorney General’s Office:

  • Utah Human Trafficking Tipline: 801-200-3443
  • Internet Crimes Against Children Tipline: 801-281-1211

Thank you to our Military Families

November 9, 2018

During a season in which we honor our veterans, it is only appropriate to recognize the family that stands behind them. 

Military families know sacrifice. Long separations and deployments, numerous relocations, along with the persistent conflicts and risk of losing a loved one – these are just a few of the extraordinary contributions made by the families of our service men and women. 

Military families are the backbone of our country. They are the quiet and steadfast presence at home supporting our soldiers with personal courage and pride. It is this vital support which sustains and strengthens our soldiers and, ultimately, our nation. 

To our military families – for all the ways you serve that go unnoticed and your loyal commitment in supporting your soldier abroad and at home…


Legislative Session & Spring Law Internships

November 5, 2018

Are you or someone you know thinking about a career in politics, public policy, government or law?

Enough thinking. Time to try it out.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is proud to provide opportunities for students interested in the world of law, legislation, and victim advocacy through internships. 

We are now accepting applications for two spring internship programs.

Legislative Intern
Interns assist our legislative liaison in monitoring, researching, and reporting on researching legislation important to our office.

  • Runs late January to mid-March.
  • Comes with a stipend.
  • Preference is given to full-time interns.

Law Intern
Interns are paired with the divisions of our office which hold the most interest for them. 

  • Runs January through April.
  • Unpaid.
  • Part-time or full-time.

The application deadline is Dec 1st, 2018 at 11:59 p.m, but the Office is considering applications as soon as they come in.

Find more information and the application at

Utah to join in the monuments cases

October 29, 2018

The State of Utah is seeking to intervene in two lawsuits over the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante Monuments. That means we would become a co-defendant with the federal government. For a little light reading, you can read our Motion to Intervene on both lawsuits at the links below. 

Bears Ears Motion to Intervene

Grand Staircase Escalante Motion to Intervene

In Utah, these cases matter. A lot. From the motions, linked above:

The State has substantial interests, including sovereign interests, in the management of millions of acres of public land within its borders. Management of this land has direct and indirect economic impacts on the State and its citizens and directly implicates property rights held in trust by the State to support schools. Disposition of this matter in favor of Plaintiffs would impede the State’s ability to protect these interests; such a disposition could deprive the State of revenue and jeopardize the full use of the property rights it holds for the benefit of all Utahns. Intervention is also necessary because the Federal Defendants are not capable of adequately representing the State’s unique interests.

You’ll remember that the AG’s Office opposed the original designation of the Bears Ears National Monument, then applauded the new administration’s modifications in size, scope, and management. When those modifications were challenged, we joined with Kane, San Juan, and Garfield Counties to support the Department of Justice’s request that these two cases be heard in Utah. Local issues should be heard locally. However, that petition was denied and the hearings will roll forward in D.C.

Now, Utah seeks to become a defendant in order to present the state’s unique and essential perspective on the restructuring of the monuments. 

Stay tuned – and thanks for paying attention.

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