Justice Department files lawsuit over Utah legislation

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The federal government has filed suit against the state of Utah over a piece of legislation that tries to prohibit federal officers from enforcing state or local laws on Utah's public lands.

The Utah legislature passed H.B. 155 earlier this year, and Justice Department officials said the bill keeps them from doing their jobs.

Utah’s Attorney General John Swallow said the bill is designed to let local officials enforce local laws.

“It's a classic case of the tension between the federal government and the state government and their rights,” he said. "We believe that local officers and state officers ought to be enforcing state laws, rather than the federal government trying to enforce state laws. The perfect example is: We don't want our residents having to go to a federal magistrate on a speeding ticket.”

A federal judge moved Monday to block the state from enforcing HB 155 for the time being. Arguments in court will begin in June.

[See the text of the lawsuit (PDF)]