This week, Utah Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak received the National Association of Attorney Generals (NAAG) Senior Staff Award in Washington DC. The award is given annually to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, expertise and achievement to other state AGs and NAAG.
SG Holyoak has had a distinguished legal career as a public interest attorney and litigator focusing on consumer protection. She served as president and general counsel of Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute and was one of the successful petitioners in the 2019 Supreme Court Case Frank v. Gaos.
SG Holyoak became Utah Solicitor General in 2020, and will soon serve as a member of the Federal Trade Commission.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined the State of Alaska and a coalition of attorneys general in sending a comment letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to oppose a recently proposed rule from his Department. If finalized, the rule, “Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Health and Human Service Programs or Activities” would supersede congressional intent in the Rehabilitation Act and impose onerous new mandates on local jurisdictions’ provision of care for individuals with disabilities.
When Secretary Becerra and his Department rolled out this directive in September, he claimed that “this historic proposed rule will advance justice for people with disabilities and help ensure they are not subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving funding from HHS just because they have a disability.” However, the attorneys general argue that this proposed rule “violates principles of separation of powers, federalism, and related regulatory requirements, and fails to consider costs and interferes with state budget processes as an unfunded mandate.” They also make the case that this rule “is inconsistent with Medicaid rules and federal funding.”
In their letter, the States write that the Department “cannot both claim that there is a nationwide lack of a broad array of services, technology, and durable medical equipment while also stating that there will be a negligible cost to adding this sweeping set of requirements.” The coalition also highlights the Department’s “attempts to trump the judicial and legislative branches by imposing a regime that Congress and the courts have declined to support.” They conclude their communication by demanding that “this activist attempt to undermine State sovereignty” be rejected.
Joining Utah and Alaska as signatories on the letter were the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Texas.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a public comment letter, led by the State of Kansas and co-signed by a coalition of attorneys general, to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration and Wage and Hour Division. The States wrote in opposition to the Department’s recently proposed rule, “Improving Protections for Workers in Temporary Agricultural Employment in the United States.”
The attorneys general argue that this proposed rule from DOL violates both the “major questions doctrine because Congress did not clearly authorize the Department to grant foreign migrant farmworkers the right to unionize through the rulemaking process” and the “Fifth Amendment because it involves a taking without just compensation.” The coalition additionally made the case that this rule “prioritizes the interest of foreign agricultural workers over American ones.”
In this comment, the States also asserted that this new regulation would be unlawful regardless of the violations to the major questions doctrine. They wrote, “There is little doubt that there is high political and economic significance to unionizing temporary foreign farm workers while leaving American agricultural workers behind. But even if there were not, this rule would still be contrary to law. First, Congress has already spoken on the issue. And it has excluded all farmworkers from collective bargaining protections. There is no ambiguity in that. There is certainly no support for the position that the Department can override this explicit statutory exclusion through the rulemaking process.”
Utah and Kansas were joined on the public comment by the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
This week, the Utah Attorney General’s CASE Strike Force concluded a multi-day retail theft blitz that resulted in 28 arrests and $12,000 recovered stolen property. The sweeping anti-theft sting included assistance from Cottonwood Heights Police, Salt Lake City Police, Taylorsville Police within their respective jurisdictions. In addition, Sandy Police, Park City Police, South Salt Lake Police, Adult Probation and Parole, State Fire Marshall, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Postal Inspectors assisted with personnel and equipment.
These operations focused on individuals and groups stealing from nine participating retailers including Home Depot, Nordstrom, Target, Ross, T.J.Maxx, Sierra, HomeGoods, Old Navy, and Kohl’s. This was in an effort to combat retail theft during the holiday shopping season.
Among those arrested were two AP&P fugitives, one parole violation, one narcotics arrest, and three felony arrests from an organized retail theft crew who have been charged with similar crimes in multiple other states. Four of the individuals led officers on foot pursuits and several had specific tools used for removing security devices from merchandise in their possession. One individual also had eight counterfeit $100 bills in his possession.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office extends its thanks to law enforcement and retail partners who participated in the operation and looks forward to future collaborations. In addition, we would like to thank Live View Technologies for donating time, technology and equipment to support our efforts.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an amicus brief, led by the States of Iowa and West Virginia, in USA v Trump. The brief, which was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, supports the former president’s constitutional right to protected political speech.
Earlier this fall, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order that restricted former President Trump’s verbal and written statements regarding “individuals involved in the judicial process” in one of the unprecedented prosecutions of a former President of the United States. This order was stayed until the appeals court hears arguments on the matter later this month.
The coalition of attorneys general argues that the district court’s order is too broad and vague, and that it interferes with the ongoing presidential election. It urges the appeals court to reverse the district court decision.
In the brief, the States write that “the Fifth Circuit recognized that restricting officials’ speech obstructs their ‘crucial interest in listening to their citizens.’ When the ‘federal government coerces or substantially encourages third parties to censor certain viewpoints, it hampers the states’ right to hear their constituents and, in turn, reduces their ability to respond to the concerns of their constituents.’ So if President Trump wants to weigh in on a subject covered by the prior restraint and is restrained from doing so, his constituents will be denied by the federal government an opportunity to have him listen.”
Joining Utah, Iowa, and West Virginia were the States of Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas.
This week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes spoke at a Lincoln Elementary youth event in South Salt Lake City. It was aimed at supporting the Utah Attorney General Youth Committee’s presentations and teachings on police-leading activities.
Through the Lincoln Elementary G.R.O.W. mission, children learn to trust police officers and how they can help their communities.
In this event, ICAC officers taught kids a variety of topics, including internet safety, outreach to their local communities, and becoming supportive role models.
Children heard from an education specialist, spoke with ICAC officers about positive social behaviors, and played indoor games with Attorney General Reyes. An enjoyable photo opportunity concluded the event.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an amicus brief, led by the States of Montana and Idaho, in a Second Amendment case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The matter in front of the court involves a challenge to a law passed by the Hawaii State Legislature in June 2023 that “prohibits the carry or possession of firearms” in designated places, including “bars and restaurants serving alcohol, banks and financial institutions, and adjacent parking areas.” A U.S. District Judge in Hawaii enjoined portions of the law, leading to the appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
In their brief, the coalition of attorneys general argues that “Hawaii fails to show that its sensitive-places restrictions align with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulations,” focusing on the lack of these similar prohibitions in public parks and beaches, banks and financial institutions, and bars and restaurants serving alcohol during the late nineteenth century.
The States conclude by writing, “As Bruen explained, ‘when it comes to interpreting the Constitution, not all history is created equal.’ Rather, ‘[c]onstitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them.’ So evidence closer in time to the Second Amendment’s adoption is most relevant for understanding the Amendment’s scope. Of course, evidence of historical regulations through the end of the nineteenth century could be relevant, but only to the extent that it confirms what prior evidence ‘already…established.’”
Joining Utah, Montana, and Idaho were the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a coalition of 23 state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief led by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen today in support of a California mother who was wrongly shut out of her child’s gender identity decision by a school district, violating her longstanding and fundamental right to direct the care of the child.
Earlier this year, Aurora Regino filed a lawsuit against officials at the Chico Unified School District in California, which violated her constitutional rights when district officials allowed her daughter to socially transition to a boy without informing Regino of her daughter’s decision, following the district’s flawed policy not to inform parents of such decisions unless given express permission by the student. The school’s counselor even advised the child against telling her mother and confiding in another family member instead.
To make matters worse, the daughter’s feelings about being a boy diminished throughout the semester, amplifying her gender-related stress and anxiety since by that time her school community viewed her as a boy. The attorneys general are asking the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse a district court decision which wrongly ruled in favor of the school district.
The school district violated Regino’s longstanding and fundamental right to direct her child’s care and custody. A century ago, the United States Supreme Court grounded a long-standing common law right in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, securing parents the right to direct the care and custody of their minor children. Since then, the Court has reaffirmed that parental right repeatedly.
The law correctly assumes that children do not have the same capacity for making difficult decisions that adults do, which is why there are many restrictions on children’s rights including the right to vote, enlist in the military without parental consent, or to drink alcohol. Additionally, that same principle is traditionally applied in schools since parental consent is routinely required before a student can receive medication or participate in some school activities.
“School districts can’t shut a parent out of their child’s decision about their gender identity because the school believes the parent isn’t supportive enough of an immediate gender transition,” the attorneys general wrote in the brief. “The District’s policy infringes on Regino’s substantive due process rights by withholding critical information about whether her children have taken any action concerning their gender identity, leaving Regino (and other parents) completely in the dark about her children’s mental and emotional well-being.”
The school district also violated Regino’s fundamental rights by making decisions about her daughter’s gender identity behind her back. The school district’s policy “requires all District personnel to refer to a student by a new name and pronouns at school if the student informs them of their new identity and preferred name and pronouns.” However, the school district may not inform parents of their child’s decision “unless the student specifically authorizes the disclosure, except where disclosure to parents is ‘otherwise required by law’ or there is ‘compelling evidence that disclosure is necessary to preserve the student’s physical or mental well-being’” giving ultimate decision-making authority to the child and depriving parents of their “longstanding, primary role in ensuring their child’s safety and well-being.”
Schools across the country have adopted these dangerous policies, which violate parents’ rights and prevent them from helping their children make crucial decisions about their mental health and identities.
“The explosion of these policies appears to stem from ideologically driven advocacy groups claiming that federal law requires this result. One such group, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), promotes a so-called “model” policy—similar to the District’s—which falsely claims that disclosing a student’s ‘gender identity and transgender status’ without the student’s consent may violate the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),” the attorneys general wrote. “These federal statutes—no matter how laudable their aims—cannot displace parents’ longstanding right to care for their children.”
Montana Attorney General Knudsen led the effort. Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia also joined the amicus brief.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, urging the Biden Administration to “vigorously renew vetting of foreign student visa holders and promptly remove anyone who has endorsed or espoused terrorist activity or provided material support to foreign terrorist organizations.” The letter, which was led by the State of Arkansas, was signed by eighteen additional states.
The letter to Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas describes the concerning pattern of demonstrations in many cities across the United States supporting Hamas and opposing Israel’s efforts to defend itself against acts of terror. In their letter, the coalition of attorneys general highlight the “surge of Antisemitic threats on university campuses” and explain that “supporting terrorism is grounds for removal and violates federal law.”
In the letter, the States quoted a message by President George Washington to the Hebrew congregation at Newport, Rhode Island, in which President Washington stated that “[t]he Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance[,] requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support,” with the goal that “every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” The attorneys general reaffirmed that this “principle still applies today,” adding that “those who live under the protection of the United States government, including holders of student visas, must respect the basic rights of all to be free from the threat of terrorism.”
Joining Utah and Arkansas as signatories to this letter were the States of Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a comment letter, led by the State of West Virginia, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on the agency’s proposed rule, “Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for Passenger Cars and Light Trucks for Model Years 2027-2032 and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Heavy-Duty Pickup Trucks and Vans for Model Years 2030-2035.” The States urge the agency to make substantial revisions to this fuel efficiency regulation to ensure that it conforms to the law.
According to NHTSA, the fuel standards, which were published on August 17, would “increase at a rate of 2 percent per year for passenger cars, 4 percent per year for light trucks, and 10 percent per year for heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans for MYs 2030-2035.” The American Energy Alliance wrote that “unlike previous rulemakings, the costs of Biden’s efficiency rule are now so high that regulators can no longer pretend that mandating greater fuel economy for passenger cars is a good thing for society. Increasing the costs of transporting Americans, as well as their goods and services, simply hurts them.”
The coalition of attorneys general argues that this proposed rule from NHTSA violates federal law because it “wrongly considers EV’s (electric vehicles) fuel economy” and considers hybrid vehicles in ways not permitted by statute. The States further argue that the proposed rule unlawfully preempts State efforts in this area and is arbitrary and capricious.
In addition, the States assert that the nation does not have the capability to support the era of electric vehicles that the Administration seeks to mandate. They write that “many States foresee painful energy shortages on the horizon because of increasing EV market penetration. Utilities and federal and state governments haven’t invested enough into infrastructure to avoid problems from the current pace of electrification. And not only is grid load a challenge, but distribution is, too. Because many Americans share similar rhythms in their daily life, huge numbers of EV drivers plug in their vehicles at the same time – right when they get home from work – and therefore create peak demand at the same.”
Joining Utah and West Virginia on this letter were the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, 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.