Saturday, June 09, 2007

A word of consolation to Mark Shurtleff on vouchers

Yesterday was one of those days in which too much good stuff was coming out of our court system.

One day earlier, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff had stripped two attorneys employed by the State Board of Education of their previously extended designations as Special Assistant Attorneys General because, according to his letter of termination (courtesy of http://www.slc.spin):
In an effort to cooperate with the State Office of Education, I appointed you as a Special Assistant Attorney General with the specific charge that you “act on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office.” Recent events have demonstrated that you have failed to carry out that charge. Rather, you have fostered an adversarial and hostile relationship between the State Board of Education and this office by giving advice contrary and inconsistent with advice given by me and others in the Attorney General’s Office.
Yesterday, of course, the highest court in Utah unanimously confirmed that the contrary advice being given by those attorneys was right: voucher bill H.B. 174, which amended voucher bill H.B. 148, cannot stand alone. In other words, the earlier opinion that Shurtleff tried to force his client to accept was wrong. (And to all those KSL.commenters who don't seem to grasp the concept, the Attorney General does not have the final say on what the law is in Utah. The courts do. An Attorney General is an advocate, a lawyer just like anyone else, which means that he can be wrong -- horribly, embarrassingly wrong -- as we have just seen.)

So, when Utahns vote on H.B. 148 in November, the vote will decide H.B. 174's fate as well--in other words, voters in Utah get an up or down vote on vouchers. What a radical concept!

A final word to Attorney General Shurtleff: Please don't feel bad about your legal analysis and advice being so totally, totally wrong. With all the experience you're getting working on behalf of Utahns to keep "Dog" the Bounty Hunter out of the clink in Mexico, other clients may be calling you at any moment . . . .


JM Bell said...


Oh, my sides hurt.

...can't ... stop ... laughing

Stacey said...

I don't know about where you work but if my boss decides something for the company, that is the law until someone above him decides something different. He can be wrong and is occasionally, but if I can't convince him he is wrong I have 2 choices, do what he says or quit (ignoring him would have the same result as quitting).

What the School Board's attorneys did was ignored their boss (maybe even worse, they provided legal advice they had no authority giving). So he fired them. Now the SC has said he was wrong, but that doesn't mean he was wrong to 'fire' those attorneys at the School Board.

I am not aware of any time when the AG has provided 2 official AG from the same question which contridicted each other. I would not be surprised to find that different Asst. AG's had different opinions but once the AG decides which opinion is his opinion, the Asst. AG's that were on the losing side don't have the right to give their opinion as coming from the AG's office.

Voice of Utah said...

Things are different in the field of law. Lawyers are bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct to give their honest assessment to their clients. If their advice is different from someone else's, their choices are to 1) inform the client as to what they believe is the correct advice, so that the client can have the benefit of both assessments, or 2) withdraw as counsel. It is not an option for lawyers to give advice that you think is wrong just because your "boss" wants you to.

Rebecca said...

Things are not all that different in the field of law. If a law firm or the AG's office meets together with a variety of attorneys, discusses a case at length, comes to consensus on the issue and then releases an official opinion from the firm, it would be inappropriate for an employee of the firm to go against the decision.

It is true that the Attorney Generals interpretation of the law was an opinion however; the Supreme Courts decision was also an opinion; this is the way the American legal system works. Neither the Attorney General nor the Supreme Court did anything inappropriate, illegal or wrong. They followed the correct legal processes and seem to have put aside their own agendas. I don't think Shurtleff has even taken a stand on the voucher debate.

Conversely, the two renegade Assistant Attorney Generals who went against the opinion of their office were out of line. They contradicted the opinion of their employer (when I say "employer" it is important to remember that a large number of Assistant AG's decided on the final opinion...not just one attorney).

Anonymous said...

okay, i know this is an old post but I want to put my two cents in after reading about this again recently. The two "ASSISTANT AGs" as they are being referred to were NOT working for the AG but employed as the legal council for the Utah Board of Education. Shurtleff had given them (unnecessarily so) some sort of "special status" only 2 weeks before they ruled, obviously hoping that he could control the outcome of their ruling. They ruled according to law and in line with their actual boss (Utah Board of Ed) after which Shurtleff then stripped them of their "special" titles and tried to discredit them. It was a political move to try and undermine attorneys who were NOT employed by him that he knew were going to contradict his pro-voucher argument.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Shurtleff should go get some more legal advice from the TV lawyers @ Siegfried & Jensen. He says they are doing a "bang up" job on the other cases he sent them (Zyprexa lawusit). Then again maybe that is because S&J had Shurtleff's daughter working on cases he sent over!

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