Another Perspective on the Utah Republican Party Preliminary Injunction Hearing on SB 54

I had the opportunity of attending the preliminary injunction hearing on April 10th in Salt Lake. The Utah Republican Party’s attorneys Marcus Mumford, Christ Troupis and Michelle Mumford were in court on behalf of the Utah GOP.  Utah State Assistant Attorney General General David Wolf argued on behalf of the state. AG Sean Reyes recused himself from the case previously.

In order to be granted, a preliminary injunction (a delay of implementation of the law), the party seeking the preliminary injunction must demonstrate all four things together:

  1. That there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the case,
  2. That they face a substantial threat of irreparable damage or injuryif the injunction is not granted,
  3. That the balance of harms weighs in favor of the party seeking the preliminary injunction
  4. That the grant of an injunction would serve the public interest.

During the case it was clear that Judge David Nuffer was looking for these four things, as well as case-law rulings to back up the position. The Party provided numerous examples of case-law during the hearing, showing examples of different instances where the Supreme Court has held that the State could not dictate to a political party, including in California Democrat Party v. Jones. In California v. Jones, the court ruled 7-2 that the state’s forced blanket primary, which took away party affiliation from being on the ticket, violated the political parties first amendment right of association.

The Party cited multiple other examples of case-law. Because the Utah Republican Party is the plaintiff and the State is the defendant, it’s up to the Utah GOP to prove the case. And in this hearing because they were requesting a preliminary injunction the burden of proof was substantially higher.

The judge said many things that should give Count My Vote and those who support SB 54 concern, including that he felt the Qualified Political Party path under SB 54 is perhaps unconstitutional as it would force the  Party to open its primary.

The judge said that he did feel that SB 54 taking away from the Party the requirement of having candidates receive a majority or a supermajority vote was of deep concern to him and that he felt it could meet the qualifications of irreparable damage to the Party. However, he said since there is no case-law on this, he was not willing to be the first judge in the country to take a stance. I feel that it is very disappointing that so many judges these days rely only on case-law only rather than relying on the U.S. Constitution as their guide.

Although the Utah Republican Party did not meet the high burden to obtain a preliminary injunction, I am confident that SB 54 will ultimately be ruled unconstitutional in part or in full.

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