Sen. Kirk Cullimore, long criticized for his role in landlord issues, parts with father’s eviction firm

The senator says it was impossible to balance his legislative duties and role at the law firm. He will no longer handle eviction cases.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.

State Sen. Kirk Cullimore Jr., who became a lightning rod in the Utah Capitol for debates around renters’ rights and evictions, has left his father’s law firm — reportedly the largest filer of eviction cases in the state — and says he is no longer handling eviction or collections cases.

The senator said his father, Kirk Cullimore Sr., contacted him at the end of the last legislative session and wanted him to spend more time focused on the firm and less on his legislative activities.

Instead, the junior Cullimore took the next several months wrapping up his responsibilities at the firm and lining up new clients for his own venture, listed as KCJR Legal on the Utah Bar’s directory.

“A part-time Legislature, I think, is really key to Utah and I would never want to change that, but it does make employment difficult sometimes,” said Cullimore, who is currently the Senate assistant majority whip and widely believed to be poised to climb the ranks in Republican leadership.

The Law Office of Kirk A. Cullimore, founded by the senior Cullimore, files nearly half of all the tenant eviction cases in the state, according to reporting by the Utah Investigative Journalism Project. On the firm’s website, the elder Cullimore also touts how he helped shape Utah’s eviction laws, which are among the most landlord-friendly in the nation. He also is the legal counsel to the Utah Rental Housing Association, formerly the Utah Apartment Association.

The firm reportedly maintains a database it provides to landlords documenting when an apartment applicant has been evicted previously.

The younger Cullimore, who was listed on the firm’s website at least until this summer, acknowledges that he has “taken a lot of arrows” at the capitol because of his relationship with the firm.

He has also worked to expedite eviction proceedings during the pandemic; sponsored legislation making it easier to have a judge removed from a case, including an eviction; and, when he was head of government affairs for the Utah Apartment Association, the group opposed measures like translations of lease terms for tenants.

Kirk Cullimore Sr. said in a statement that while the Utah Legislature is ostensibly a part-time commitment, “the reality is that being a committed and effective legislator requires a substantial amount of time. This inevitably affects a legislator’s availability for their regular employment.”

Having risen to a leadership position, the elder Cullimore said, came with additional obligations and “led to him spending more time away from our law office. This shift has placed additional demands on our other attorneys and staff members. While a great and effective attorney, the time commitment the firm needed was greater than time available.”

When Cullimore split from his father’s firm, the senator said there were other firms in town that would have hired him, but, “They weren’t going to tolerate me being in the Legislature, so I had to decide if I enjoyed the Legislature enough to start my own business.”

Cullimore is doing some contract work for his father’s firm related to fair housing and representing apartment owners in compliance actions with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

He also is helping structure business deals, handling some real estate development and working with an artificial intelligence startup company.

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