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Swallow's attorneys say Legislature lacks basis to impeach attorney general

Published June 14, 2013 10:46 pm

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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Lawyers representing John Swallow are arguing that the Legislature has no basis to impeach Utah's attorney general and that doing so would be caving to "media innuendos and distortions" based on untrustworthy sources.

"We believe this is the time for elected officials from both sides of the aisle to demonstrate their faith in our system of government," wrote Swallow's attorneys, Rod Snow and Jennifer James, "by not allowing scandalous allegations concocted by those under indictment for fraud, or locked up in prison for fraud, to manipulate the press and to dictate how elected officials react."

Snow formerly represented Marc Sessions Jenson, one of Swallow's accusers, while Jenson was under investigation for securities fraud.

The crux of the argument from Swallow's attorneys is that the Utah Constitution permits impeachment only in cases of "high crimes, misdemeanors or malfeasance in office."

Since the embattled attorney general has not been charged with a crime, and several of the allegations against him involve actions taken before he took office, impeaching the state's top law enforcement officer would violate the state's constitution, the lawyers argue in the letter.

Some lawmakers have argued that a public official could be impeached for violating the public trust without being convicted of a crime. House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, made that point in an email to lawmakers Friday.

"Guilt or innocence as to the technicalities of the law is reserved for the court system," she wrote. "Technical violations of the law may be part of our considerations, but need not be a limiting factor."

Swallow's lawyers argue that is not the case and that by proceeding with impeachment, lawmakers would run the risk of impeding the ongoing federal and state investigation.

House Republicans are scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss their options for responding to the ongoing Swallow scandal, including potential impeachment.