Rule of Convenience | Editorial Videos | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Rule of Convenience 

Some like laws, but only when they're convenient. A win for public records and Mike Lee continues his public lands crusade.

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Rule of Convenience
Here's one of the favorite catchphrases of the new Republican Party: "the rule of law." It is part of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers, who should "further the public's understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority." But wait. Confidence? Moving away from the celebrity-inspired pardons, there are two in our neck of the woods—Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and those wacky ranchers who set fires on public lands and inspired the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Now, President Trump wants America to believe he really, really loves the "rule of law" and wants his guy put on the Supreme Court. "The Rule of Law is our nation's proud heritage. It is the cornerstone of our freedom. It is what guarantees equal justice," he said. When it's convenient.

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Public Access
It's hard to understand why a simple public records request takes years to accomplish. Let's just say it's pushback. A Utah judge just ruled—after two years—that the BYU Police Department is a public entity and needs to turn over emails and other information requested by The Salt Lake Tribune. The paper was examining how students who report sex crimes are treated. "State-sanctioned BYU Police like to say they follow #GRAMA, except when it's controversial or not convenient," BYU journalism professor Joel Campbell tweeted. But keep your ears to the ground. At a recent legislative committee hearing, lawmakers were told the number of GRAMA requests was on the rise, and they need to staunch the flow. In other words, slow public access.

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It's Mike Lee's Land
Uh-oh. Now that Sen. Mike Lee is out of contention for the Supreme Court job, he'll be tirelessly working to get the public out of public lands. According to the Deseret News, Lee has introduced a bill to prohibit presidents from expanding or creating national monuments in Utah without congressional and legislative approval. "Unfortunately, what was once a narrowly targeted tool for preventing looting on federal lands has become a weapon urban elites use against hard-working rural Americans," Lee said. And there you have it: the urban elite. Yes, by all means the rural 20 percent of the U.S. population should take over the public lands from the elitist majority. Indeed, Utah is right up there with Alaska and Nevada with the highest percentage of public lands within its borders—and Utah is at the greatest risk of losing these lands.

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