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Sean D. Reyes
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AG’s Office Releases Draft Opinion on 3rd Congressional District Special Election

Controversial request spotlights conflict between state law and legal ethics

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, the Attorney General’s Office received a waiver from Governor Herbert allowing it to release a legal opinion to the legislature on issues related to the special election in the Third Congressional District.

The opinion was drafted in May, 2017, but not disclosed due to ethical concerns with its release. Now that the threat of litigation has passed, and the governor has issued a waiver, the ethical barriers to sharing the opinion have been removed. The opinion was hand-delivered to the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House, and Governor.

The opinion indicates that Governor Herbert’s actions appeared to be within his statutory and constitutional authority to call the election as he did. The opinion letter, while in draft, was the subject of controversy– not due to its content, but because conflicting interpretations of the law, constitutional responsibilities, and legal ethics provided no clear ethical path for immediate release of the document. 

Now that the opinion is public, the Attorney General’s Office anticipates this will negate the need to pursue a petition for judicial review of the State Records Committee’s decision on this matter.

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NOTES:

  1. Find a PDF copy of the letter and related documents at https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2018-01-16-CD3-Ltr.pdf.
  2. Attorney General Reyes penned an op-ed in November regarding the elections opinion letter and finding an ethical path forward. You can read that here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/featured-content/op-ed-the-disputed-special-election-letter-and-the-ethical-path-forward.
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