Judge blocks Utah law that would prevent BLM, Forest Service from enforcing state rules

Posted: May 17, 2013

Written by

Robert Gehrke, Salt Lake Tribune/GW
Utah BLM

A state law that would have prevented some federal officials from enforcing state laws anywhere in Utah was temporarily blocked yesterday by a federal judge.

Under the law sponsored by state Rep. Mike Noel (R), federal employees would have faced a $1,000 fine and six months in jail for enforcing any state law in Utah if they were not law enforcement officers. Such actions would be deemed misdemeanors.

In a filing yesterday, the Justice Department said Congress makes the laws for federal lands. The Utah Legislature cannot overturn or supersede such laws.

"BLM and Forest Service employees who operate in the state of Utah will subject themselves to potential criminal penalties under state law by continuing to perform the duties required of them under federal law," the federal government wrote in the brief.

The law was supposed to begin today. But after speaking with attorneys for both the state and federal governments, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer signed a restraining order that keeps the law from being implemented until a June hearing on an injunction.

The Justice Department is asking that Nuffer strike down the law because it says it is unconstitutional. And for its part, the Utah attorney general's office intends to "vigorously defend" the new law.

"We don't want Utah citizens going before a federal magistrate for a speeding ticket," Attorney General John Swallow (R) said in a statement. "We are concerned about the federal government once again encroaching on states' rights, and we will vigorously defend the constitutionality of H.B. 155."

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