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Sean D. Reyes
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Utah Joins California on Federalism Issue

August 7, 2018

Eighteen states urge U.S. Supreme Court to follow 1985 precedent

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced Utah has joined California and sixteen other states asking the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold a Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision stating land use regulation and state property law cases should be heard in state courts before moving into the federal court system.

“From time to time, Utah and California interpret the constitution differently,” said AG Reyes. “In this case, however, we agree that questions about state property laws and land use regulations should be heard in a state court first. Local self-governance, especially on land use issues, is an American principle of federalism we need to preserve.”

The bipartisan coalition hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will affirm the appeals court ruling and the 1985 high court precedent prohibiting landowners from litigating takings claims in federal court until they have exhausted all avenues at the state level. The coalition of states contend that state courts are best situated to resolve complex, local conflicts – especially when individual rights and the needs of the community may be in tension.

The case involves Rose Mary Knick, owner of 90 acres of rural land in eastern Pennsylvania, and the Township of Scott, Pennsylvania. Knick alleged the violation of her Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights and appealed the Third Circuit Court of Appeals before exhausting state-law remedies. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments of Knick v. Township of Scott in their next session.

Utah joined the California-led brief along with attorneys general from Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.

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1. You can review the amicus brief here:

2. For more information on the details of Knick v. Township of Scott, see 
SCOTUSblog: & Oyez:

3. The AG’s office published a blog explaining its stance. You can read that here:

Utah’s War on the Unreadable Amicus

Well over 800 amicus briefs were submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017.  All were numbered, tagged, diced, and measured for the following five crucial elements of good legal writing:

  • Flow
  • Plain English
  • Punchiness
  • Reading Happiness
  • Sentence Length

Top score? Utah’s Solicitor General Tyler Green, of course. 

Here’s an excerpt from Doctor Adam Feldman’s analysis entitled Getting Rid of those Amicus Blues

The top scoring brief was from Utah’s Solicitor General Tyler Green in Lucia v. SEC.  Another one of Green’s briefs, the one from D.C. v. Wesby, ranked in this top group as well. 

The Utah AG’s Office combines the natural respect of courts for the work of the states with style, readability, and strong arguments. 

Why this matters

“The number of amicus briefs filed each term far outweighs the number of briefs filed by direct parties. These amicus groups vie against one another for the Court’s attention as the resources for evaluating these briefs are limited.  High-quality writing remains one of the best ways for groups to get the Court’s attention. . . “

Bryan Schott has more in Utah Policy.

Read Dr. Feldman’s full report here

Utah Attorney General's Office

AG Reyes Joins Legal Challenge to Protect Children from Sex Trafficking

SALT LAKE CITY October 11, 2016 – Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that Utah had joined 20 other State Attorneys General in an amicus, or “friend of the court” brief, challenging a decision that granted broad protection from civil liability even when it took active steps to promote sex trafficking of children.   Of the more than 11,800 endangered runaways reported to the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children in 2015, one in five were likely victims of child sex trafficking, up from one in six in 2014.

“The internet is increasingly the primary avenue for sex peddlers, including child sex traffickers, to offer the services of their victims for Johns to exploit.” should be held accountable for enabling such predatory conduct to the extent it encourages or fails to take reasonable measures to combat this predatory behavior,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Utah has seen the devastating effects of this kind of illicit exchange just recently when a man seeking sex on stabbed a Utah woman to death and severely injured a second Utah woman after not getting the services he desired.” It is critical that those responsible for enabling any sex exploitation or human trafficking be held fully responsible.”

In the present case, three “Jane Doe” plaintiffs — underage girls who were allegedly marketed for sex through — attempted to sue the website and its operators, only to be turned away by the trial court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.

Their lawsuit alleges that Backpage’s conduct violates both federal and Massachusetts laws prohibiting companies from benefiting financially from ventures promoting or facilitating child sex trafficking.

In dismissing the suit, the courts cited a provision of the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) that provides protection to websites that passively post third-party content without altering it. Congress passed the Communications Decency Act in 1996 in response to fears about Internet Service Providers becoming liable for defamatory statements made by their online users.

The brief was filed in the first week of October in the United States Supreme Court in the case of Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 & Jane Doe 3 v. The brief argues that the Communications Decency Act does not protect a website operator from liability when it creates content that actively promotes sex trafficking of children by encouraging use of language that will attract customers seeking children for sex.  The brief argues that uses language to encourage payment methods that make financial transactions with the traffickers’ untraceable, strips metadata to impair law enforcement’s ability to locate victims, and deletes “string ads” posted by law enforcement.

In related news, CEO Carl Ferrer, 55, was arrested on October 6, 2016, on state felony charges of pimping children following an investigation by the California Attorney General’s office in coordination with the Texas Attorney General’s office. Two controlling shareholders of, Michael Lacey, 68, and James Larkin, 67, have also been criminally charged with conspiracy to commit pimping.

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