U.S. Attorney Sues Utah Over Restrictive Law Enforcement Bill

May 13, 2013

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah filed a complaint against the state today and obtained a temporary restraining order to stop a law from going into effect tomorrow. They say the new law violates a clause in the U.S. Constitution.

The law that passed as HB155 in the last legislative session would prohibit employees of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service from enforcing state laws and federal laws that mirror local laws. Lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Utah Attorney General’s office agreed to the temporary restraining order on Monday and will now submit arguments to be heard in a federal court hearing on June 26. The complaint filed by U.S. Attorney David Barlow claims that the enactment of HB155 is in direct violation of the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. But Utah Attorney General John Swallow says the federal government was never given authority to enforce local law.

“The law is pretty clear, federal law, that in order for federal agencies and officers to enforce state law they need the consent of the state to do that,” Swallow says.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, sponsored the legislation. He says the new law aims at protecting Utah citizens from being harassed by federal employees.

“We think it’s a basic, fundamental, jurisdictional right of law enforcement and of the citizens of Utah to be able to have their sheriff within their counties, who’s elected every four years, be the chief law enforcement officer,” Noel says.

Violation of the law based on HB155 would be class B misdemeanor and could result in a prison sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to one thousand dollars.
 

Order Granting Temporary Restraining Order of HB155 by Brian Grimmett

Complaint from U.S. Attorney about Utah HB 155 by Brian Grimmett

HB 155 Motion for TRO by Brian Grimmett