Hansen v. Utah State Retirement Board

In Hansen v. Utah State Retirement Board, 652 P.2d 1332 (Utah 1982), the attorney general filed an action against various state agencies, including the Utah State Retirement Board and Trust Fund, the Industrial Commission, the State Insurance Fund, and the University of Utah Medical Center, seeking a declaration that the Utah Constitution conferred exclusive authority on the attorney general to act as legal advisor for the agencies. Id. at 1334. The Court reasoned that because the attorney general is an executive department office under article VII, section 1 of the Utah Constitution, the attorney general's constitutional authority is limited to acting as a legal advisor to only "those departments over which executive officers have direct supervisory control." Id. at 1337. Thus, we explained that whether the attorney general has the power to represent state agencies depends on whether the state agencies are departments over which executive officers have "direct supervisory control," and if not, "whether the legislature has authorized defendants to employ independent counsel." Id. at 1338. In determining whether state agencies are subject to direct executive supervisory control we look to a number of factors, including, but not limited to, whether the agency was established as an independent agency by the legislature, whether the agency is governed by a board or executive officer, whether executive officials play a significant role in agency affairs, and whether the agency receives state funding. See id. at 1338-39.