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Blatant Misrepresentation of Utah Proposal

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This story in the Deseret News reports, "Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is cranking up the phone tree by urging his constituents to call their lawmaker to support a controversial bill that gives the Utah Legislature authority to decide death penalty appeals."

That would indeed be radical if it were true. In Merrie Olde England, the House of Lords was the high court, and a few early American legislatures had judicial functions, but we long ago accepted that legislatures ought not do judicial functions, except impeachment.

Fortunately, Mr. Shurtleff's proposal does nothing of the sort. Senate Joint Resolution 14 simply recovers for the Legislature the authority to decide what postconviction remedies will be available, an authority most legislatures have but which the Utah Supreme Court has wrested for itself. The decision of individual cases would remain with the judicial branch.

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Many states have stricter separation of powers provisions than the federal standard in their constitutions, and this, quite naturally, has led many state courts to proclaim that the judiciary has the last word on "procedural" rules.

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