The Utah Legislature Flunks Law School

Holly mentions Utah’s quixotic, somewhat deranged attempt to seize federal lands by eminent domain, correctly observing that federal law would pre-empt any state eminent domain action.

One might also mention McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), which held that a state cannot tax a federal agency.  If a state can’t tax a federal agency, how in the world would it be constitutional to seize it?  McCulloch is perhaps second only to Marbury v. Madison in terms of its foundational status as constitutional law.  Would it be too much to expect Utah lawmakers, most of whom are probably lawyers, to have heard of it?  Maybe we shouldn’t answer that one…

My friend and colleague Steve Bainbridge, with whom I agree on just about nothing (outside of the inherent evil of the Dallas Cowboys), reaches the same conclusion.

Reader Comments

One Reply to “The Utah Legislature Flunks Law School”

  1. Ah, Jonathan, your comments compel me to attempt to defend the honor of myself and the legal profession, at least as it is found in the Utah legislature. I’m privileged to serve in the Utah State House of Representatives and in real life I’m also an attorney.

    You nicely describe the bills passed in the last session and recently signed into law by the Governor dealing with eminent domain as both quixotic and somewhat deranged. I said as much during debate on the House floor. Bad enough that we ignore well settled constitutional principles and waste legislative time tilting at windmills. But worse in that the actual impact on Utah’s citizens is flushing $3,000,000 in taxpayer dollars down the litigation toilet in an almost certain to fail bid to pick the federal wallet. Not exactly consistent with principles of fiscal conservatism, especially coming from one of only two states (Hawaii is the other) that forbids all types of gambling.

    You go farthest astray in your suppositions about the occupational makeup of Utah’s House and Senate. Of 75 House members, only four are attorneys! However, of the four, I was the only one to vote against the eminent domain bills. The Senate has a greater proportion of attorneys, seven out of 29 members. But again, only two of the seven voted against these bills. Small comfort that most Democrats in the House and Senate, and all Democratic lawyers in both chambers, voted against this nonsense. But it’s the only comfort available to me in the context of your blog post.

    Rep. Brian King

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About Jonathan

Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic – Land Use, the Environment and Loc…

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