In a move that would make Joseph Story and John Marshall rise from their graves and offer him high-fives, 10th Circuit Judge David Nuffer made himself the sole arbiter of federal and state powers, ruling last Friday that federal park rangers’ authority supersedes that of the State of Utah in matters concerning local law.
Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB155, on April 3. The new law prohibits federal Land Management officers from acting as agents of state and local law by “limiting the authority of specified federal employees to exercise law enforcement authority within Utah.” The bill came in response to officers of the Forestry Service taking it upon themselves to administer local traffic laws, making such unauthorized actions class-B misdemeanors; punishable by a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
“We don’t want Utah citizens going before a federal magistrate for a speeding ticket,” said Utah AG Swallow, in the AG’s press release on May 13. “Federal officers should be enforcing federal laws and state and local officers should be enforcing state and local laws. We are concerned about the federal government once again encroaching on states rights and we will vigorously defend the constitutionality of HB 155.” [Emphasis added.]
Federal attorneys promptly sued, and on May 13th, Nuffer granted a temporary injunction, stopping the law from taking effect. Last Friday’s ruling extends the injunction until the issue is settled at trial.
“There is a strong public interest in the enforcement of law on public lands. We do not want to leave federal lands without clear boundaries of law enforcement,” Nuffer said. “Nothing in my ruling will prevent Utah from enforcing state law on federal land.”
When left to determine the extent of its own authority, of course the federated government is going to vote in their own favor–it’s a given! Like any other addict, clawing for their respective fix, all bets are off, and all rules are left to the ether of relativistic interpretation and games with loaded dice.
“Mine, mine, mine,” is hardly a Constitutional argument, something our supposed betters would be wise to remember the next time they slip on their little black dresses and hop a bench. The authority they wield is on loan and only operates by consent; and consent is exactly what Utah has withheld from Ranger Smith, despite Judge Nuffer’s usurpation of state law.
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