After the Supreme Court ruled Monday that Utah's domestic-violence law must be enforced until a court decides if it's constitutional, legal pundits expected the law's constitutionality to be promptly challenged.
It was.West Valley City, which threatened legal action this week, officially filed the suit against Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam Friday afternoon. The suit says Van Dam's claim that the new domestic-violence law is unconstitutional leaves the city open to a lawsuit.
The suit asks U.S. District Judge David Sam to determine the constitutionality of the law, which requires police officers to order a domestic-violence suspect to keep away from a residence shared with the victim for at least 24 hours.
"I look forward to having the court review the situation. I agree with West Valley City, it needs to be resolved," Van Dam said when he learned of the suit.
The Legislature passed the controversial law last session. At the request of Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocum, Van Dam reviewed the law and concluded it was unconstitutional because it robbed a suspect of his right to property without due process. Van Dam released that opinion in May.
However, the Utah Supreme Court ruled Monday that Utah law enforcement officials must continue to enforce the law until a court determines its constitutionality.
Four days later, West Valley City asked Sam to do just that.
"I'm only surprised that someone hasn't filed a suit before now," Van Dam said. "I really thought that the Legislature's general counsel might do that to resolve the issue instead of force someone to try to enforce a questionable law."
"We're put in a precarious position with the law," said West Valley Chief Prosecutor Keith Stoney. "If we're ever sued because it's unconstitutional, and they win, we're in big trouble.
"It's our opinion that it's much cheaper for us to let the court decide now. It only cost us $120 to file the suit and a little bit of our time. But it could save us thousands and thousands of dollars later."
Stoney believes the law, dubbed the "no contact law" does not violate the constitution and makes that clear in the law suit.
Legislative General Counsel Gay Taylor considers the suit an appropriate way to determine the constitutionality of a law passed by the Legislature.
Taylor and Van Dam squared off over Van Dam's opinion of the law. Immediately after Van Dam released his opinion, the Davis County Sheriff's Department held a press conference to announce it would not enforce the law.
Taylor, on behalf of the Legislature, sued Davis County for not enforcing the law, arguing that a court - not the Utah attorney general - should determine the constitutionality of a law passed by the Legislature. Until it does, the law should be enforced, she argued.
The Supreme Court agreed.
"I think this is exactly how the law should be tested," Taylor said of Friday's suit. "Law enforcement officials need to know whether or not it is constitutional and whether or not they would be liable if they enforced the law."