Complaint Against State AG Submitted to Utah Bar Association

Salt Lake City — The Alliance for a Better UTAH submitted a complaint today to the Utah Bar Association asking the Bar to investigate whether the state’s leading litigator has violated the Utah Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC).

Attorney General John Swallow has been the subject of increased scrutiny after disgraced colleague and businessman Jeremy Johnson alleged Swallow participated in an effort to bribe U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

While others have focused on investigations of Swallow’s alleged criminal activity, and Swallow himself has called for an investigation by US Attorney David Barlow, the facts, even as outlined by Swallow, raise questions regarding Swallow’s judgment and possible ethical transgressions.

Former Utah legislator and Better UTAH board member David Irvine has suggested those transgressions cast doubt over whether Swallow is able to impartially fulfill his constitutional responsibilities.

“It hasn’t been clear, from anything reported in the press, that the investigation requested by Mr. Swallow would look beyond the question of whether what has occurred might be a violation of law,” said Irvine. “The Attorney General is required by law to be a member of the Utah State Bar, and it seems appropriate for Better UTAH to ask, as part of the collective ‘client’ of the Attorney General, if even the non-contested matters described by Mr. Swallow are consistent with the ethical standards required of lawyers.”

Based solely on Swallow’s own statement surrounding his activities, the complaint suggests that Swallow’s actions may be violations of at least five sections of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Those violations could include the failure to act with commitment and dedication to the interest of a client; the failure to act with zeal in advocacy upon the client’s behalf; undertaking outside representation involving a concurrent conflict of interest to an existing client; misuse of state assets for personal use or financial gain;  and other misconduct under the RPC.

The complaint also asks the Bar to consider whether Swallow has violated other state laws, including the Utah Public Officers’ and Employees’ Ethics Act or the Utah Administrative Code, which prohibit the use of state assets for personal use or financial gain. Those violations may also run against the RPC.

For example, Swallow reportedly worked over 100 hours while employed as the state’s chief deputy attorney general, consulting for a Las Vegas cement company in late 2010 and early 2011. According to business partner Allen Young, Swallow was paid $23,500 for that work. Johnson alleges that the $23,500 was for lobbying efforts that would have connected Johnson with Harry Reid.

“Though the precise reason for being paid the $23,500 is in dispute,” said Josh Kanter, founder of Better UTAH, “at best Swallow is misappropriating his time as a full-time employee of the State for personal gain, and at worst he is aiding a single individual regarding a matter that his office could be called upon to prosecute on behalf of the entire State of Utah.”

The Attorney General and his office, as the chief law enforcement officers of the state, represent the interests of the State of Utah, its agencies and, by extension, all citizens of the state.

The complaint also includes a request for the Bar Association to consider whether the conflict of interest provisions in the Rules of Professional Conduct should apply to campaign contributions paid to lawyers who are government employees or candidates for public office.

Under current Bar rules, an informal Bar Association complaint is submitted to the Office of Professional Conduct as the first step in investigating any complaint against a Utah attorney. Matters may then be determined to merit a charging conference and referral to a screening panel of the Ethics and Discipline Committee. Better UTAH has asked the OPC to consider these issues to be serious enough to merit a charging conference and referral to a screening panel of the Ethics and Discipline Committee.

A full copy of the complaint can be found at:
Alliance for a Better Utah |  801.557.1532   |
The Alliance for a Better UTAH is a year-round, multi-issue education and advocacy organization providing resources, commentary, and action on important public policy matters.

Scroll to Top