Constitutional Law, Utah

Utah Invokes Eminent Domain Against the Federal Government

This is the kind of story that sounds unbelievable — until you realize that it’s dealing with the people who run Utah. The WSJ Law Blog reports:

Utah Governor Gary Herbert on Saturday authorized the use of eminent domain to take some of the U.S. government’s most valuable parcels.

A state is invoking the Takings Clause against the federal government? This reminds me of the time I came home and my dog told me to get off the couch. Sure, I was surprised that my dog was (a) talking and (b) ordering me off my own property. And so I resolved, right then and there, to never drop acid again.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what the hell Utah lawmakers are smoking …

I’m going to put some kind of latex protection around my brain before I get down into the muck and deal with Utah’s argument. I suggest you do the same. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

The goal is to incite a court battle that they believe they can win at the Supreme Court giving Utah the right to develop the disputed land and generate some $50 billion for the state’s public schools.

“This is the solution to being the lowest-funded education system in the nation,” said Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork.

Sumsion and Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, argue the federal government has an obligation through the U.S. Constitution and Utah’s statehood act, to sell off federal land and provide 5 percent of the money to the state, but hasn’t followed through.

Lawmakers have complained for years that the federal land ownership in the state limits property taxes and development, hurting the state’s ability to fund its schools. But they have been unable to move the federal government on the issue.

Sumsion said this is a more direct shot.

“We’re going to eminent domain it and say this is a down payment for the 5 percent you owe us and we’re going to court over that issue,” he said.

So, the Utah strategy is to blackmail the federal government by stealing land it feels belongs to them? I’m sorry, wasn’t this exactly what O.J. tried to do?

Utah says that it is doing this because it wants more money to fund education. So where do you think the money is going to come from to litigate Utah’s takings claim?

Legislation would direct the attorney general’s office to pursue the litigation and the lawmakers want $3 million from the school trust fund to bankroll the lawsuit.

Yes, let’s take $3 million from education to fund a frivolous lawsuit we’re starting to get more money for education. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, it’s possible that the legal fees the state plans to spend won’t be necessary:

But if the law is as bad as Democrats say it is, a court will quickly overturn it and the state won’t have to spend much money defending it, Herbert said.

Wow. Okay, so the Utah Governor thinks that it won’t cost the state very much money to defend this law that is ridiculous on its face because it is prima facie ridiculous. Unless it’s not totally ridiculous, in which case the state will spend $3 million out of its education fund, until the Supreme Court tells them that they can’t generate money for education by blackmailing the federal government. But the state is only trying this … for the children.

Utah baby, where logic goes to die.

In War Between States and Feds, Utah Strikes Latest Blow [WSJ Law Blog]
Utah lawmakers propose using eminent domain to take federal land [Salt Lake Tribune]
New Utah Law OKs State Seizure of Federal Lands; Aim Is Supreme Court Showdown [ABA Journal]

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