Democrats on Commission Demand All Information From Chairs [UPH Wire]

Media Release
 
Thursday February 4, 2016
 
Contact: Senator Jim Dabakis  (801) 815-3533 Rep Joel Briscoe (801) 425-3038
 
In a letter addressed to the Chairs of the Utah Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands, the Democratic minority members
 demanded that all pertinent information to the potential public lands lawsuit be delivered to them. 
 
The two Democratic members of the Commission have been systematically shut-out from the flow of vital information that they 
need as Commission members in order to make important decisions for the people of Utah.
 
In December, the Commission received a legal report that cost taxpayers more than $600,000. It is the position of the Chairs that 
only they should have full access to the taxpayer funded lawyers. 
 
Senator Dabakis and Representative Briscoe believe that as members of the commission they should have unsupervised, unvetted 
access to all information. They are concerned that this exclusion is perhaps an attempt to cover-up any facts that may lead to 
conclusions other than sue, sue, sue.
 
The Democrats also doubt the wisdom of having a law firm write an advisory opinion when that same law firm might benefit 
from a decision for the taxpayers to spend $14,000,000 on a lawsuit.
 
Letter is attached Below:
 
 
 

Sen. David P. Hinkins (R), Chair
Rep. Keven J. Stratton (R), Chair  

 

Dear Sirs:

​As you know, Rep. Briscoe and I are members of the Utah Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands.  That is the

legislative commission charged with the following duties, among others: (From H.B. 151, Section 3 [uncodified])

Section 3. Duties — Interim report.

(1) The commission shall:

 

* * *

(h) receive reports from and make recommendations to the attorney general and other stakeholders involved in litigation 

on behalf of the state’s interest in the transfer of public lands to the state, regarding:

(i) preparation for potential litigation;

(ii) selection of outside legal counsel;

(iii) ongoing legal strategy for the transfer of public lands; and

(iv) use of money appropriated by the Legislature for the purpose of securing the transfer of public lands to the state.

 

You also know that on December 9, 2015, the Davillier Law Group, LLC, the lawyers engaged by the Office of Legislative Research 

and General Counsel, delivered a Legal Analysis to the Commission.  That 150 page report discusses in great detail the positive 

legal basis for pursuing litigation against the federal government to position the State to obtain ownership or control of federal 

lands in the State of Utah.  That same report provides little to no detail on the defenses or negative analysis of such litigation.  

We believe that as Commission members, we should have that information before recommending time-consuming and costly 

litigation to the Attorney General, the Governor and the Legislature, much less our constituents.

 

​We have asked the representatives from the Davillier Law Group to provide the undersigned with that analysis.  Mr. Wentz 

of that group advised us they cannot without direction from you.  While they admit that the members of the Commission are 

their clients, they won’t discuss the negatives of litigation with us without your direction.

 

​We write as members of the Commission to ask you, as appointed Chair of the Commission, two questions and to make 

related requests.  

 

First, has the Davillier Law Group, advised or discussed with you, or to your knowledge anyone else, either orally or in writing, 

“all anticipated defenses and counterarguments” (p. 1 of Legal Analysis, Section 1) to the recommended litigation.  Such matters 

were intentionally excluded from the now public report from that law group.  If you have been so advised or had such discussions, 

please provided the undersigned with all writings provided to you or anyone else in that respect, and please direct the Davillier 

Law Group to provide the same advice and discussion, oral or written, which they have provided to you or anyone else.  

 

Second, if you have not been advised by the Davillier Law Group of “all anticipated defenses and counterarguments” to the 

recommended litigation, please tell us on what basis the Commission can recommend to the Office of Legislative Research and 

General Counsel, the Attorney General, the Governor or the Legislature that the recommended litigation be pursued in light of 

the existence of “anticipated defenses and counterarguments thereto.”  Or if you are not aware of any such basis and none has 

been provided, please tell us when and how we might expect to receive such advice, or confirm that we never will.  Note that 

the Davillier Law Group recommends that they be authorized to prepare a “private memorandum for confidential consideration 

by the Attorney General addressing potential defenses to Utah’s claims, together with counter arguments, along with a model 

Complaint.”  (p. 146 of Legal Analysis, Part Six).

 

With a projected price tag of over $14 Million Dollars, and in light of our charge from the Legislature, we believe that any 

decision recommending litigation be made with an understanding of both sides of the dispute.  In only that way can we assess 

the merits of such an endeavor.  We await your responses.

 

 

 

 

________________________________​​__________________________________

Rep. Joel K. Briscoe​​​​​Sen. Jim Dabakis

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