John Swallow’s attorneys have sent a letter to the Utah Legislature, claiming that they do not have the authority under the law to impeach him.
While the Utah House of Representatives contemplates whether or not to open the impeachment process and investigate the allegations made against Attorney General John Swallow (R), his attorneys have sent the legislature a strongly worded letter saying that unless Swallow has committed a crime, they may not have any actual authority under the law to impeach him.
The letter, dated June 5, 2013, points to the Utah code outlining that grounds for impeachment include “high crimes, misdemeanors, or malfeasance in office,” and says that those words directly mean convicted criminal acts. Swallow’s attorney also blames the media for the coverage of the allegations against the Attorney General, calling it biased and based on “distorted headlines.”
The legislature’s attorney, John Fellows, has sent out memorandums to the House of Representatives, pointing out that the phrases “high crimes, misdemeanors, and malfeasance in office” were copied directly from the United States constitution, and that the meaning is left to the state legislature to define, because no federal court has ever attempted to directly define them.
Most legislators and lawyers, to this point, have said that high crimes, misdemeanors and malfeasance in office are not necessarily limited to crimes, but may also include abuses of office, corruption, or unethical behavior which leaves the office unable to complete its duties.
But according to Swallow and his attorneys, impeaching him for unethical behavior is illegal. “[t]he belief than an officeholder is no longer effective, or even proof than an officeholder is no longer effective, is not grounds for impeachment. Removal for such a reason not only violates Utah law, but presents a dangerous precedent that undermines the fundamental principle that the decision of the voters is paramount.”
Swallow has been accused of attempting to facilitate a bribe of a US Senator, leveraging campaign donations in exchange for protection from prosecution, accepting gifts from people under investigation by the Attorney General’s office, violations of the ethical standards of the Utah Bar Association, filing false campaign finance disclosures, and other questionable activities.
Read the full letter below: