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Celebrating Leadership: President’s Day Lessons From the AGO

As we mark President’s Day here in Utah, the Attorney General’s Office reflects on the legacy of leadership woven into our nation’s history. From the founding fathers to the present day, each president has played a unique role in shaping the course of our republic.

Our office honors their service and acknowledges the responsibilities that rest on their shoulders.

1. Commitment to Justice and the Rule of Law: Many presidents have faced adversity in upholding the principles of justice and equality. Their unwavering commitment reminds us of the importance of defending the rule of law, even when it’s challenging.

2. Courageous Decision-Making: From George Washington leading the Revolutionary War to Franklin D. Roosevelt navigating the Great Depression, presidents have often been called upon to make difficult decisions in times of crisis. Their courage teaches us the importance of informed leadership and taking calculated risks for the greater good.

3. Uniting a Nation: From Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, presidents have used their platforms to unify and inspire a divided nation. These historical moments remind us of the power of words and leadership in fostering unity and understanding.

4. Service Above Self: Every president takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” This act of selflessness underscores the importance of public service and dedicating oneself to a cause greater than oneself.

5. Embracing Diversity: As our nation evolves, our presidents align with the ever-evolving tapestry that shapes our nation. It’s a reminder to embrace diversity and value different perspectives.

As we celebrate President’s Day, let us honor the leadership lessons passed down through generations. May we be inspired to actively participate in our democracy, hold our leaders accountable, and strive to leave a positive mark on our own communities, just as our presidents have done throughout history.

Beyond the Blog:

In addition to this blog post, the Utah Attorney General’s Office encourages you to:

Together, let’s build upon the legacy of our presidents and create a brighter future for all.


AGO Challenges Social Media Censorship

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in Murthy v. Missouri. The brief, led by the State of Montana, supports a challenge to the federal government’s recent censoring of privately held opinions on online platforms.

The States of Missouri and Louisiana sued the federal government over allegations that it “engaged in a broad pressure campaign designed to coerce social-media companies into suppressing speakers, viewpoints, and content disfavored by the government.” For purposes of this challenge, much of the federal government’s censorship took place during the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 presidential election. Both the district court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the States, leading to the appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s high court will hear oral arguments in the matter on March 18.

In their brief, the attorneys general argue that “the States have Article III standing,” that “the standing inquiry is relaxed in the First Amendment context,” and that “the States have standing to defend their sovereign and quasi-sovereign interests.”

The coalition of States writes, “Because individual users were often unaware that their speech was being artificially suppressed by Petitioners, lawsuits to vindicate their interests will be rare. The district court found the social media companies, at the behest of the federal government, used ‘spectrum of levers’ to conceal their censorship efforts, including ‘de-boosting’ and preventing content sharing through ‘friction.’ Petitioners veiled their actions in two ways. First, government actors directed social media employees to silence protected expression through private channels. Second, social media companies artificially limited the reach of protected expression in manners that hid the censorship.”

Joining Utah and Montana are the States of Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Arizona Legislature.

Read the brief here.


Asset Management Companies Withdraw From Radical ESG Group After Continual AGO Efforts

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – After persistent efforts by Attorney General Sean D. Reyes to enforce the law and protect the financial interests of all Americans, J.P. Morgan and State Street announced Thursday that they would be withdrawing their assets from Climate Action 100+, while BlackRock is substantially scaling back involvement. The association “is an investor-led initiative to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change.”

AG Reyes states:

This is a monumental day for the rule of law and the American people. It validates our fight against the radical, environmental agenda, perpetuated by Climate Action 100+ and similar entities.

Since the earliest days of ESG, my office has been unrelenting in opposing actions taken by a cabal of powerful public and private institutions wielding a disproportionate amount of power over everyday Americans. I applaud BlackRock, JP Morgan, State Street, and other firms who have withdrawn active participation in CA100+ and similar entities. It seems these companies have finally come to their senses and now realize not only the negative policy implications but also the potential legal ramifications of entanglement with CA100+. 

I appreciate the coalition of attorneys general who have consistently joined us in holding accountable large, powerful organizations and institutions while ensuring they adhere to all applicable laws and protect the interests of those they claim to serve.

Attorney General Reyes’ efforts include the following: 

  • On March 31, 2023, General Reyes co-led a letter to more than 50 of the nation’s largest asset managers, including Blackrock, J.P. Morgan, and State Street, about ESG investments being made with Americans’ hard-earned money. The coalition of attorneys general reminded asset managers of their extensive legal duties under federal and state law to act as fiduciaries.
  • On May 10, 2023, General Reyes appeared before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability to provide testimony on the critically important issue of how ESG factors distort the American financial system and harm consumers. In his testimony, Reyes wrote, “Since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, there has been an open conspiracy to bypass Congress and instead impose costly changes on American consumers using the power of horizontal agreements by key players in our financial system, including Climate Action 100+.
  • In 2023, General Reyes filed a Motion to Intervene and a Motion for Relief regarding BlackRock, Inc.’s blanket authorization from the U.S. Federal Regulatory Commission. The States argued that BlackRock violated the statutes for reauthorization because it was a signatory to horizontal associations like Climate Action 100+ that coordinate shareholder voting power across their members to influence FPA-covered utilities’ operations, and because it was not acting as “passive, non-controlling investors” as it represented in seeking authorization.

The exodus from Climate Action 100+ follows a number of firms that have withdrawn from the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance and other organizations also committed to the ESG agenda.


Utah Consumer Protection Act: A New Law to Protect Online Privacy

At the beginning of 2024, a new law called the Utah Consumer Privacy Act took effect. It’s something all consumers should know about.

The new law includes important protection that gives consumers the right to find out the extent a company may be using your personal information. It also includes responsibilities for businesses to ensure they’re complying with the law.

On Legally Speaking this week, to give an overview of the significance of the UCPA, are Assistant Attorney Generals Lana Taylor and Brett Nedick, and Katie Has, Director of the Consumer Protection Division.

This news release has details and important links about the Utah Consumer Protection Act:

January 1, 2024: Under a new state law, Utah consumers have the right to access and control their personal data. The Utah Consumer Privacy Act (UCPA) took effect on December 31, 2023. Under the new law, the UCPA also requires businesses to protect personal data and provide consumers with information about how they can exercise their rights.

The UCPA gives consumers the right to:

·        find out if a business is processing their personal data;

·        access their personal data;

·        request that a business delete their personal data;

·        obtain a copy of their personal data; and

·        opt out of having their personal data sold or used for advertising.

Consumers may exercise these rights by submitting a request to a business. The business then has 45 days to respond to the consumer’s request.

Some of the new requirements that businesses must comply with include:

·        protecting the confidentiality and integrity of consumers’ personal data;

·        reducing the risk of harm relating to the processing of personal data;

·        providing consumers with clear and accessible privacy notices;

·        informing consumers about how they can opt out of the sale or the processing of their personal data for targeted advertising; and

·        notifying consumers before processing sensitive personal data.

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection’s website provides educational materials about the UCPA and a complaint form for consumers at https://dcp.utah.gov/ucpa/. The Utah Attorney General’s Office’s website provides information about the UCPA and a link to the new law at https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/how-can-consumers-protect-their-personal-data/.

Listen to the Legally Speaking podcast here.


FCC Responds to AG Reyes’ Demand to Crack Down on AI-Generated Robocalls

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes received a letter from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) notifying him that it outlawed voice calls generated by artificial intelligence (AI). AG Reyes has worked to address robocall concerns for years, and recently joined a bipartisan letter addressing this issue.

The FCC’s action comes after officials in New Hampshire processed a huge number of complaints and started investigating AI-generated robocalls imitating President Joe Biden that discouraged people from voting in the primary last month. With this development, the FCC can now fine companies that use AI voices in their calls or block service providers.

Since he took office, AG Reyes has taken the lead on efforts to protect consumers from fraud and annoyance from AI and robocalls, most recently in a bipartisan letter from the nationwide Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force. The group sent a February 6 letter warning one alleged offender, Life Corporation, to “cease any unlawful AI robocall call traffic immediately”.

Read the FCC’s Letter to AG Reyes here.

Read an AP News report on the FCC’s action here.


AG Reyes Supports North Dakota in Redistricting Map Challenge

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an amicus brief, led by the State of Alabama, in Turtle Mountain v. Howe. The case involves a challenge to North Dakota’s recent state redistricting map and is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The coalition of attorneys general submitted the brief in support of North Dakota.

The case commenced in February 2022, when the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians filed a lawsuit over the most recent legislative map in North Dakota. The complaint alleged that the map “dilutes the voting strength of Native American voters from [two tribal] reservations by … reducing from two to one the number of state house seats in … this region.” The trial court ruled in favor of the tribes, leading to the appeal at the Eighth Circuit.

In their brief, the attorneys general argue that “Section 2 [of the Voting Rights Act] does not unambiguously confer new individual rights” and that the “plaintiffs did not prove a Section 2 violation.” The States make the case that “so as not to ‘subject to judicial oversight’ the shape of every state redistricting map ‘at the behest of a single citizen,’ Congress gave to the United States Attorney General alone the authority to enforce the ‘stringent new remedies’ of the Voting Rights Act.”

Joining Utah and Alabama on this brief were the States of Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia.

Read the brief here.


AGO Joins Amicus Regarding Recovery of Attorneys Fees

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in Lackey v. Stinnie. The brief, led by the State of Georgia, supports Gerald F. Lackey, the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, in a case about whether a party who obtains a preliminary injunction is entitled to attorney fees, particularly when the case thereafter becomes moot.

After obtaining a preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs sought attorney’s fees because they believed they were the “prevailing party.” Before the adjudication of these fees occurred, however, the State of Virginia took voluntary action that mooted the underlying dispute. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs qualified as a “prevailing party” because they obtained the injunction, meaning the State of Virginia was on the hook for $768,491.70 in attorney’s fees.

In their brief, the attorneys general made two arguments for the nation’s high court to consider. The first was that “the question presented is recurring and important to the States.” The second was that “the Fourth Circuit and other circuit courts apply tests for fee eligibility that conflict with this Court’s precedents.”

The coalition of States writes, “Under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and a number of other federal statutes, plaintiffs regularly seek, and courts sometimes impose, substantial fee awards against state officials where the plaintiffs obtain a preliminary injunction but no final relief because the case becomes moot. Yet the circuit courts have not established clear or consistent standards for when, if ever, attorney’s fees are authorized under these circumstances. Instead, the circuits apply amorphous, subjective tests that fall far short of this Court’s repeated calls for ‘ready administrability’ in fee eligibility standards. These unstable and often contradictory tests impose needless costs on the States and their residents in the form of protracted secondary litigation over fees. This uncertainty then complicates the States’ litigation and policy decisions, and it produces a perverse incentive to continue litigating cases to final judgment to avoid spending the public’s money on attorney’s fees.”

Joining Utah and Georgia on the brief were the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

Read the brief here.


The Menzies Case Revisited

More than 35 years ago, Ralph Menzies robbed, kidnapped, and murdered Maurine Hunsaker. At the time, she was a single mother who worked at a convenience store. 

For his heinous crimes, he was sentenced to death. It has taken all this time for Maurine’s family to find justice in this case. 

Once all appeals had been exhausted, the Attorney General’s Office requested an execution warrant. But now, there are new developments in the case.

In this Legally Speaking segment, Assistant Solicitor General Erin Riley discusses the Menzies case as of 2/5/2024.


AG Reyes Supports Effort to Prevent Social Media Censorship

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in Moody v. NetChoice. The filing, which was led by the States of Missouri and Ohio, supports laws passed in Florida and Texas that help prevent censorship by social media platforms.

Both Texas and Florida passed laws in 2021 prohibiting corporate censorship on social media platforms. Texas’ H.B. 20 regulates certain social media platforms’ ability to remove user content and prohibits email providers from impeding email messages based on the message’s content. Florida’s S.B. 7072 prohibits social media platforms from “deplatforming a candidate for political office.” The Texas law was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; however, the Florida law was mostly blocked by the Eleventh Circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and oral argument will be presented on February 26.

In the brief, the coalition of Attorneys General argues that “States have authority to prohibit mass communication platforms from censoring speech” and that “the hyperconcentration of social media reinforces State authority to regulate.”

The States write, “The States have a vital interest in hearing the speech of their citizens, especially political speech. That is necessary for States to be democratically responsive. NetChoice’s position threatens these interests because it seeks to upend the longstanding authority of States to prohibit mass communication networks from engaging in censorship and viewpoint discrimination.”

Joining Utah, Missouri, and Ohio on this brief were the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Arizona Legislature.

Read the brief here.


AG Reyes Joins Letter Supporting Natural Gas Exports

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a letter to President Joseph R. Biden and Commerce Secretary Jennifer Granholm over the administration’s recent “pause” of liquefied natural gas exports. The letter, which was led by the States of Kansas, Indiana, Louisiana, and West Virginia, explains how this executive action further compromises American energy security and independence.

Last month, the Biden-Harris administration announced a “temporary pause on pending approvals of liquified natural gas exports.” The administration claimed the decision was made, in part, to “adequately account for…the latest assessment of the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.” The White House also blamed “Republicans in Congress” for denying “the very existence of climate change” in an attempt to justify its action.

In their letter, the coalition of attorneys general argues that this pause is “unlawful,” that it “further damages our economy,” and that this federal government action “harms our national security.”

As the States write, “The Department of Energy has identified no authority to issue blanket denials of export permits. As you should know, the Department ‘literally has no power to act—including under its regulations—unless and until Congress authorizes it to do so by statute.’ Yet neither the White House nor the Department cited any statutory authority when announcing the pause. Instead, the White House merely referred to President Biden’s executive order commanding federal agencies to reorder federal operations around single-minded and fears about climate change.”

The attorneys general also added that this pause “emboldens and empowers Iran and Russia, while further hampering our ability to protect ourselves.”

Joining Utah, Kansas, Indiana, Louisiana, and West Virginia, were the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

Read the letter here.