Judge sides with ex-Utah AG John Swallow over push to have taxpayers pay legal defense bills

SALT LAKE CITY — A judge has sided with former Utah Attorney General John Swallow in his effort to make the state pick up the tab for his legal bills.

In a ruling handed down Monday, 3rd District Court Judge Andrew Stone denied a motion by the Utah Attorney General’s Office to dismiss Swallow’s lawsuit. At stake is more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars that would be used to pay for Swallow’s legal defense, which he believes he is entitled to.

Swallow has argued that as the former Utah Attorney General, he was entitled to have the state cover some of his costs for defending himself. He was facing a long list of corruption-related charges, accused of accepting gifts and donations from people under investigation by the AG’s Office. However, he was acquitted by a jury after a trial last year.

Swallow’s former office, the Utah Attorney General’s Office, asked the judge to dismiss his request arguing that he was not a state employee at the time because he’d resigned a year into office. But Judge Stone ruled the language of the statute is “clear and unambiguous” and centers around an “event.” The judge also rejected claims that Swallow failed to follow the proper channels to seek reimbursement and went straight to court.

Swallow and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff (whose charges were dismissed), have sought to have their legal bills covered. Shurtleff’s request for his reimbursement is pending before a state appeals court.