“The Attorney General is the only office in the state that can stand up to the federal government encroaching upon our rights and freedoms,” said the Utah’s Chief Deputy Attorney General for Civil Affairs, John Swallow.
A one-time litigator with the law firm Scalley & Reading, P.C., Swallow is currently a candidate in the Republican primary for Utah’s Attorney General. He narrowly missed nomination at the State GOP Convention in April, where he garnered 54.5 percent of the delegate vote to 45.5 percent for his opponent, Sean Reyes – 60 percent is required for nomination from the convention. Utah Republican voters will decide the race on June 26.
In a recent interview, Swallow touted his varied experience as a lawyer, former state legislator, and his current role as a Chief Deputy in the Attorney General’s office as his primary qualifications.
With a law degree from Brigham Young University (1990), he practiced privately until his election to the Utah House of Representatives (1996), where he served three terms and was named the 2000 Utah Taxpayer Advocate of the Year by the Utah Taxpayers’ Association.
In 2002 and 2004 he ran and lost close races against Democrat incumbent Congressman Jim Matheson in Utah’s second district. From 2007-2010 Swallow was registered in Utah as a lobbyist and he was appointed in 2009 as a Chief Deputy to current Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
While serving as Chief Deputy John Swallow has had responsibility for the civil affairs of the office. He said in the Attorney General’s office they are “really the lawyers for the state and for the people of the state as well.”
“One of the great examples of that is on the public lands fight where we just filed on 12,000 road segments throughout the state,” Swallow said. “We’re trying to make sure Utahns have the right to access roads across federal lands, so they can get to their fishing and hunting spots, and so they can get to the places where they need to develop natural resources … the Attorney General is the only office in the state that can stand up to the federal government’s encroaching upon our rights and freedoms.”
When asked about public disapproval of the high cost of litigation in questionable suits against the federal government, Swallow had this response.
“Every Utahn that understands the Constitution and understands the importance of our natural resources and accessing our lands would say that it’s worth the price … we don’t litigate because we want to litigate, we litigate because we need to litigate. Anyway, the cost of litigation, I think, has been exaggerated.”
During his time working on civil issues in Mark Shurtleff’s office Swallow has doubled the size of Utah’s public lands litigation section. When he came on board he said, “We only had two lawyers staffed to this issue (and I said), this is ridiculous. We’ve got to have the resources to at least stand up to the federal government so that we can at least control, to some level, the access to our lands.”
When questioned whether or not he felt litigation with the federal government was the most effective way for Utah to gain this access, Swallow said the Attorney General’s office was “one of four states to lead out in challenging ObamaCare”, the much maligned Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010). He said “forcing people to buy insurance against their will … is a violation of their constitutional liberties.” The fight for Utah’s public lands, he says, is similar in its legal challenge to federal authority.
“We have to be aggressive … we’re just a punching bag for the federal government. If (people) don’t want an Attorney General that will stand up and spend money where you’ll get a good return on your investment, then I’m probably not the right candidate,” Swallow said.
But civil fights with Washington are not the only responsibilities of the Attorney General’s office according to Swallow.
“We have a real big role in law enforcement, such as protecting kids from child predator, enforcing the drug laws of the state of Utah … and we have a big role in prosecuting appeals when offenders have been convicted at the state or county level.”
Swallow said he is committed to continuing the fight against criminal elements in Utah, but his main focus is the pushback against the federal government.
“We’d have to see real change in our access to public lands, real change in terms of parental rights, and how the state is responding to parents who feel like they are being walked all over by the state government … I want to see change – I don’t want to just tend the farm.
“We do a lot to stand up for people, to stand up for rights, and to make sure laws are being followed in the state of Utah. I’m raring to go. I want to fight for people’s rights. I’ve talked a lot about lands, but at the end of the day, it’s about jobs and it’s about our economy.”
Swallow finished the interview by quoting Chief Justice John Roberts of the United States Supreme Court.
“I believe in state sovereignty and states’ rights, but if the states do not stop taking so much money from the fed government, I’m afraid they’re going to waive their rights to sovereignty.” Swallow added that he is “anxiously waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on Obamacare.”
A decision from the Court is expected in that case sometime next week – right about the time Utah Republicans will be choosing their nominee for Attorney General.
Early voting for Utah’s primaries will run through Friday, June 22 in the Cache County Administration building. The hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Voters need to have a photo ID and another form of identification, such as a utility bill with current address if they have moved from the place where they previously registered.