Monthly Archives: July 2007

Hand-rolled gallery automation #

The Senate Site asked about a good way to quickly post a gallery of images. I’m a programmer, so I answered the query by rolling my own solution. (If your only tool is a hammer…)

I happen to like Litebox, although it requires a bit of manual setup: moving specific files to the web server. Don’t worry about the setup instructions on the Litebox site. We automate the file interactions below.

Getting Ready

The following requires OS X 10.4, and uses Automator.

Download the following supporting files, and put them on your web server. I put my CSS files in “/css” and my javascript files in “/js”. It’s up to you.

Add the following to your site/theme CSS file. (Feel free to modify this CSS as you prefer. These values suited me.)ul.thumbs {
  text-align:center;
  list-style-type: none;
}
ul.thumbs li {
  display:inline;
  padding: 0;
  margin: 0 5px;
  list-style-type: none;
}

Build the following Automator action (or just download the complete version)

  1. Finder : Get Selected Finder Items
  2. Preview : Create Thumbnail Images — I left the sized at 128. Leave the suffix as “_tn”; it’s important later on.
  3. Automator : (For some reason, WordPress is mangling the following code—it’s not showing the escaped quotes properly.)
    JS_FOLDER="/js/"
    IMG_FOLDER="/images/"
    LB_TAG=$(date "+%Y%m%d-%H%M%S")
    echo "<script type=\"text/javascript\" src=\"${JS_FOLDER}TagLoader.js\"></script> <script type=\"text/javascript\"> //<![CDATA[
    TagLoader.load('litebox');//
    //]]></script> <ul class=\"thumbs\">" for tn in "$@"
    do
      #Get img base name (i.e. w/o path)
      tn=${tn##*/}
      #Guess at original image name
      img=${tn%_tn.*}.${tn##*.}

      echo "<li><a href=\"${IMG_FOLDER}${img}\" rel=\"lightbox[${LB_TAG}]\"><img src=\"${IMG_FOLDER}${tn}\" alt=\"\" /></a></li>"
    done

    echo "</ul>"
  4. System : Copy Text To Clipboard
  5. (optional) TextEdit : New Text File — Pop down the options. Check “Show action when run” and “Show entire action”

Within the Automator action you just built (and, of course, saved appropriately), you’ll need to modify some code to match your server file paths. Change JS_FOLDER and IMG_FOLDER (the top two lines of the Bash script) to match the file paths.JS_FOLDER="/js/"
IMG_FOLDER="/images/"

Save your Automator action to “~/Library/Workflows/Applications/Finder/

You now have an Automator action that takes selected image files, automatically makes thumbnails, generates the HTML snippet needed to load Litebox and display the thumbnails. The HTML is copied to the clipboard for easy pasting, Nifty.

If you want to dig further into Automator, you get bonus points for using the “Finder : Get Folder Contents” action instead of having to select individual files. Extra bonus points for integrating the Upload to FTP Automator Action. (Hint: You might have to add it twice: once before the thumbnails are created, and once after.)

Using our new tool

To use the Automator action, select the files you wish to insert/thumbnail/etc. Right-click, pick “Automator”, and from the pop-out menu, pick your new action. It’ll take a moment to run (depending on how many images you selected), and prompt to save the generated html file when it’s completed.

FTP the image files and newly created thumbnails to your web server. Paste the generated HTML into your blog. You’re done!

One bug

One bug I discovered when building this, is that my script assumes the original image file has the same file extension as the thumbnail. If the initial image is a png, Automator will output the thumbnail as a jpg, so you might have to do some find/replace.

The output

I ran my Automator action on three images, and followed the process above. This is the output (I had to manually fix the png file extensions, per my bug, above). Click the images to see Litebox in action!

UPDATE: I had some problems with one of my Javascripts in IE when I first posted. It should be fixed now.
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The Board of Ed, the AG, and Statutory Authority #

In my last post I covered the relationship between the Attorney General and the State Board of Education as defined by the Utah Constitution. As promised, this post will cover how the relationship is defined in statute. The same disclaimers as last time apply.

The constitutional relationship was much easier to define. For starters, there were several court cases that when paired with sparse but simple constitutional language led to a fairly straightforward conclusion. The statutory case is rather more complicated—there are conflicting statutes, and a couple of the cases aren’t as directly applicable.

The AG as sole counsel

The argument used to assert an exclusive role for the AG in representing the Board is straightforward:

67-5-5. Hiring of legal counsel for agencies — Costs.
Except where specifically authorized by the Utah Constitution, or statutes, no agency shall hire legal counsel, and the attorney general alone shall have the sole right to hire legal counsel for each such agency. … Utah Code, § 67-5-5

Thus, per statute, the Board would need specific statutory or constitutional authorization to hire their own attorney. In his summary, the AG’s Office neglected to reference section 53A-1-302:

53A-1-302. Compensation of state superintendent — Other board employees.

(2) The board may appoint other employees as necessary for the proper administration and supervision of the public school system. The compensation and duties of these other employees shall be established by the board and paid from money appropriated for that purpose.Utah Code, § 53A-1-302 (2), emphasis added

That seems pretty clear, right? Statue grants the Board the authority to hire any one it chooses, in order to fulfill its obligations. Any organization of significant size or scope is well served by having an attorney on full-time staff, particularly when the organization writes administrative rules and enters into contracts. Given the constitutional grant of authority to the Board (i.e. “general control and supervision” of the “public education system” per Art X Sec 3), statue appears to grant the Board the right to pursue independent counsel.

How specific is specific?

This interpretation might be flawed: § 67-5-5 (above) requires an organization be “specifically authorized” to hire legal counsel. In each of the court cases quoted in the previous article (esp. Hansen (Utah 1982), and Beehive Telephone (Utah 2004)), each independent government entity was determined to have the right to employ its own counsel. However, the statutory authorization in each case was extraordinarily explicit, rather than being a general grant to hire any necessary employees.

Public Service Commission of Utah

“The [Commission] is established as an independent agency . . . [and] is charged with discharging the duties and exercising the legislative, adjudicative, and rule-making powers committed to it by law and may sue and be sued in its own name.” …

The Commission may “hire . . . advisory staff to assist the commission in performing the powers, duties, and functions committed to it by statute,” including hiring “lawyers, law clerks, and other professional and technical experts.”

Utah Code Ann. § 54-1-1 and 54-1-6(1)(a)(i), 2000, as quoted by Beehive Telephone ¶ 22-23, substitutions in original.

Utah State Retirement Board and Trust Fund
[T]he Retirement Office is specifically established as an ‘independent state agency and not a division within any other department.’ § 49-9-2. Section 49-9-4 authorizes the executive director of the Retirement Board to employ attorneys to assist in the administration of the retirement systems.” Hansen, Utah 1984

Utah State Industrial Commission

The Commission is an administrative agency, … with administrative, quasi-judicial, and quasi-legislative powers. It can sue and be sued in its own name. … It is not a body within the executive branch of government, but rather an independent agency.

Section 35-1-32 authorizes the Commission to appoint independent legal counsel to prosecute or defend any legal action within or concerning its jurisdiction. Section 35-1-32 states:

“The commission may with the approval of the governor appoint a representative to act as special prosecutor or to defend in any suit, action, proceeding, investigation, hearing or trial relating to matters within or concerning its jurisdiction.”

Hansen, Utah 1984 (See also Utah Code § 35-4-11, 1982)

State Insurance Fund
Closely associated with the State’s workmen’s compensation scheme is the State Insurance Fund. … The Director of the Department of Administrative Services now administers the Fund, and the State Treasurer, also an executive department official, is the custodian of all monies in the State Insurance Fund, § 35-3-13. The Director is authorized by statute to hire attorneys and other professional experts to assist in the administration of the Fund. § 35-3-1. … The Department of Administrative Service is an office within the executive branch of government.Hansen, Utah 1984
(Note, the court rules later in the decision that even though the Fund is under the supervision of the executive branch, it is an independent agency.)

In each of these cases, the statute authorizing independent legal counsel was explicit, not general. The statute (§ 67-5-5) requires an entity to be “specifically authorized”. Does the language of § 53A-1-302 constitute specific authorization? To me, this was the sticking point. One could semantically argue both for and against such an assertion.

The answer came indirectly through Beehive, which referenced Utah Technology Finance Corp v. Wilkinson (Utah 1986) [1] This is another case of the AG (David Wilkinson) arguing (among other things) that he is the exclusive counsel for a state entity.

[T]he legislature in section 63-60-4(1) and (2) created UTFC as an independent public nonprofit corporation. … It has all power and authority permitted nonprofit corporations by law, including but not limited to those powers stated in the Act. … The corporation is authorized in the Act to hire a full-time director and all other employees which the trustees deem necessary and to establish an advisory board to assist the board of trustees.Utah Technology Finance Corporation v. Wilkinson (Utah 1986), emphasis added

The statute that appears to be referenced is as it was passed in 1983, which contained only a reference to “all other employees which the trustees deem necessary.” The court determined this was sufficient authorization for independent legal counsel.

That would settle the matter, were it not for a small thorn: that statue was changed in 1986 with an effective date a couple of months before the Supreme Court decision. The change included a more specific grant of authorization, granting UTFC the right to “hire and retain independent legal counsel.” (Utah Code, § 63-60-4 (4)(c), 1986) [2] Did the case reference the older statute? From the context and language it seems likely. Decisions are usually rendered based on the statute that was in effect at the time of the complaint or contract. I’ve seen a handful of cases where the justices specifically acknowledge a statue that changed during the course of the case. They don’t do so here. It would require digging into the legislative debate and the case calendar/filings to get a more accurate timeline.

Plain language

Looking at it a different way, suggesting the authorization in 53A-1-302 (“may appoint other employees as necessary”) does not include the authority to hire independent counsel requires some linguistic acrobatics, suggesting the words have implicit exclusionary language specific to attorneys, or that the work of attorneys would somehow not be a necessary resource for the Board.

Statutory conclusion

Having gone through the cases/statutes cited above, I’m led to conclude that there is statutory authorization for the Board to hire its own independent counsel. I can see two points of contention with this conclusion: a) the statutory authorization is not specific enough to meet the requirements of § 67-5-5, or b) attorneys are not necessary. I disagree with those contentions.

If you see flaws in my line of reasoning, please comment.

This analysis was focused solely on the statutory authorization of the AG to be the exclusive attorney for the State Board of Education. As I’ve mentioned to a handful of legislators privately, I think the constitutional/statutory arguments are only part of the primary point of contention in this issue: control. If the AG is the exclusive counsel of the Board (a question I was not ready to decide a month ago), to what extent must the Board follow his direction? Can the AG through alleged statutory authorization dictate the vote of a constitutional, duly elected board? Because I’ve loaded the language, the question is a bit leading. I intend to pursue that point of discussion in a future post.

Notes

  1. For lawyers reading this, a fuller citation is Utah Technology Finance Corporation v. Wilkinson (Utah 1986), 723 P.2d 406, specifically section II on pp 414-415. ^
  2. The change was part of SB 254 (1986), passed 16 Feb 1986, effective 28 Apr 1986. The UTFC decision is dated July 31, 1986. ^
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The Board of Ed, the AG, and Constitutional Authority #

One of the issues the keeps rearing its head is the relationship between the Attorney General’s office and the Utah State Board of Education. The Education Interim Committee [1] met on the issue.

Standard disclaimers: I speak only for myself. I am not a lawyer.

Because it was surely intended to be an impartial meeting between the AG’s office and the Board [2] before a neutral but interested third party, we must overlook the fact that the agenda declared the issue as decided:

Representatives of the Attorney General’s Office will discuss the duty and authority of the attorney general to be the legal advisor to state officers and agencies, including the State Board of Education.Education Interim Committee, revised agenda, 20 June 2007

Representatives Frank and Urquhart each blogged about the discussion. (See also here, and here.)

What follows is my evaluation of the AG’s position on constitutional merits. As this post is too long for even a determined reader, I will address the statutory claim in a later post.

The Attorney General’s position

The AG’s claim is quite simple: he contends his office is the exclusive source of legal advice at representation for all state officers, to the exclusion of any other legal counsel. (The position summary [pdf] is posted at the committee website. Attached to the summary is the text of the Hansen (Utah 1982) case, which I’ll quote from in a moment.)

On constitutional authority

The case Hansen v. Utah State Retirement Board, et al was filed when then Attorney General, Robert Hansen, sought declaratory judgement that he was the exclusive source of legal counsel for the defendants, certain state executive agencies (in fact, in his brief he contended his authority encompassed all state employees).

In the decision, the justices cite a 1967 case (Hansen v. Legal Services Committee of the Utah State Legislature) which determined that, per a broad reading of the AG’s authority, the AG “had exclusive constitutional power … to act as legal advisor to the legislature.” (Hansen (1982), p. 3) This interpretation was overturned via a constitutional amendment in 1972 which expressly authorized the Legislature to employe its own legal counsel. Even had this amendment not been in place, the court rejected such a broad interpretation of the phrase “state offices”, finding, sensibly, that such a broad interpretation also meant that the AG would be the legal advisor to both the state’s elected representatives to the U.S. Senate, and the Justices themselves—a somewhat laughable idea.

The justices concluded:

[W]e conclude that the framers intended to confer constitutional power on the Attorney General only with respect to executive department offices. Thus, the constitutional authority of the Attorney General is to act as legal adviser to the constitutional executive officers referred to in Article VII, i.e., the Governor, Lt. Governor, Auditor, Treasurer, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the departments over which they have direct supervisory control, and to the other state executive offices referred to in Article VII.

The court recognized the Retirement Board, although it included the State Treasurer as an ex officio member, was not an executive agency under the meaning of the constitutional grant of authority to the AG, finding it was “specifically established as an ‘independent state agency and not a division within any other department.'” (ibid, quoting Utah Code 49-9-2) Later on the decision acknowledged, “None of the defendant agencies as such is an executive department agency. For various reasons the Legislature has established the [defendants, including the State Retirement Board,] as independent agencies. Likewise, the University of Utah, which enjoys a degree of constitutionally rooted independence, is not an executive department agency.” (Ibid, emphasis added)

Thus, when the AG represented the case to the interim committee suggesting the decision “holds that even independent executive branch state entities, such as the State Retirement Board … are to be represented by the Attorney General unless there is specific statutory or constitutional exemption” (AG position summary), perhaps he was a bit free with some of his descriptive language. It should probably be mentioned that Attorney General Hansen lost his case—the court found the independent agencies had authority to hire their own counsel.

Article VII

In 1986, the Utah constitution was amended, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction was removed from the list of “state officers” in Article VII. The State Board of Education has never been listed under Article VII, which is the declaration of Utah’s executive branch officers, and their respective authority. The Board is defined in Article X.

The office of Governor is listed under Article VII. In the original constitutional language, the Attorney General was to be the legal council for the state’s chief executive. This was later amended to allow the Governor to select his own legal counsel. I don’t have a good reference for it, but I’m led to understand this occurred at a time when the Governor and AG were of different political parties.

A more recent case

In support of his opinion, the AG also cited Beehive Telephone Company v. Public Service Commission of Utah (Utah 2004), in which the court briefly recapped it Hansen decision. The AG’s excerpts turns this to his advantage, but a contextual reading provides a somewhat different interpretation:

¶19 Beehive argues that article VII, section 16 of the Utah Constitution mandates that the attorney general bring this action because, according to Beehive, the Commission is an executive agency. The Commission counters that it is an independent agency, and therefore its own independent counsel may represent the Commission in this appeal. We agree with the Commission.

¶20 We first addressed the distinction between executive and independent agencies in Hansen v. Utah State Retirement Board, 652 P.2d 1332 (Utah 1982). In that case, 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. We 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 [l]egislature has authorized defendants to employ independent counsel.” Id. at 1338.

Beehive Telephone Company v. Public Service Commission of Utah (Utah 2004), paragraphs 19-20. All substitutions in original.

In his own words

The summary presented to the Interim Committee by members of the AG’s office, cited as further proof of their claim the formal AG Opinion 02-003. It seems a little like asking the fox who should be put in charge of the hen house (what political figure wouldn’t want to see an expanded interpretation of their own authority? [3]), but even the AG’s own opinion—which is misrepresented in the presented summary to apply to all government agencies—does not give weight to his claim, as it overlooks the fact that the State Board of Education (or even the State Office of Education, as they are separate entities) are not Article VII agencies, and are not controlled or supervised by Article VII officers.

The opinion’s stated conclusion is:

Agencies subject to Article VII § 16 of the Utah Constitution violate the Constitution [the grant of authority to the AG] when they hire in-house legal counsel directly, bypassing the Attorney General, regardless of the official position or title given to the legal advisor, if the attorney provides legal advice to the Agency or its officers and staff.Attorney General Opinion 02-003

As declared above, the Board of Education is not listed under Article VII.

No constitutional grant of authority

I assert the cases cited above provide convincing argument that the Board of Education, while “state officers” are not “state officers” under the meaning of Article VII § 16, particularly in light of the Utah Supreme Court’s ruling in Hansen.

Furthermore, to interpret the phrase “state officers” to vest plenary authority in the Attorney General to act as legal adviser to all state officers and agencies would effectively nullify the power conferred by Section 16 on the Legislature to add to and shape the powers of the Attorney General. The result would be to undermine the intended flexibility accorded the Legislature to provide legal counsel to various state agencies whose functions may require special legal counsel or whose duties could result in conflicts of interest.Hansen, (Utah 1982)

I hope I have clearly provided convincing argument that no constitutional grant of authority is extended to the Attorney General’s office with regard to the State Board of Education. There may very well be a statutory relationship, but I will address that at some future time.

  1. It’s not a “gathering.” It seems the term offends those seeking offense. Never mind that the first two synonyms my thesaurus returns are “assembly” and “meeting”, both accurate and dignified phrases. Also on the list are “congress”, “council”, and “forum.” Mountains out of molehills. ^
  2. It should be noted the Board chair had made it known he would be out of the state on business that day, and that the because of the timing, there would be no regular Board meeting prior to the interim committee to prepare/approve formal response to the question. ^
  3. And yes, I recognize the irony of pointing that out in this context. ^
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