History Of The District Of Utah's U.S. Attorney's Office
Seth M. Blair
Fourteen attorneys served the district of Utah from 1850 thru 1889. The Feds organized Utah as a Territory on 1850, opening the area up for the first U.S. Attorney.
Seth Blair was born on March 15, 1819 in Rails County, Missouri. He apparently traveled early and far. He had joined the Texas Rangers by the time of that territory’s rebellion against Mexico in 1835-36, and was said to have fought in several of the battles that secured Texan independence. He eventually rose to the rank of major in the Rangers and was a personal friend of Sam Houston’s. He married Cornelia Jane Espy in 1837 in Tennessee; they had three children before her death. After converting to the LDS faith he migrated to Utah in 1850 with one of the pioneer companies. In 1855 he married Sarah Maria East (21 years his junior), who had arrived in 1853; they had five children (four of Blair’s eight children predeceased him.)
As U.S. District Attorney, Blair had the distinction of prosecuting the first murder case ever tried in Utah; unfortunately the jury brought back a verdict of “not guilty.” Seth Blair’s service as U.S. Attorney came to an end when, in the LDS General Conference on April 7, 1854, it was announced that he and three others had been called to serve a Church mission “to the United States.”
Blair died in Logan on March 17, 1875. He was “well known throughout Utah . . . having resided, at different times in various parts of the Territory.” Blair was eulogized as “naturally open, free, hearty, impulsive, brave, and enterprising in character,” and as “the patriarch of the Utah bar.”
Joseph Hollman succeeded Seth Blair as the U.S. Attorney in Utah in 1854 and probably served for only about a year. Further information on Hollman’s background or subsequent course could not be located for this volume
John Payton served as the U.S. Attorney from September 13, 1855, until the Summer 1856.
Newspaper articles and other accounts from 1854 to 1859 list a “J.M. Hockaday” in Salt Lake City as a merchant and agent for contracting for eastward mail services. That this is the same J.M. Hockaday who served as U.S. Attorney from 1856 to 1858 is likely. Two newspaper lists of “store-keepers in this city, who one and all are doing a good cash business” include both Hockaday and Territorial Chief Justice John F. Kinney as store-owners dealing in “merchandize.”
Although not much is known about John Hockaday individually, events which occurred during his tenure as U.S. Attorney were significant in nudging the Buchanan administration into mounting the Utah Expeditionary Force and into expanding a policy of appointing judges and other officers from outside the territory that, with few exceptions, continued in force for the rest of the territorial period.
Alexander Wilson was appointed the U.S. District Attorney for the Territory of Utah during the sensitive period when Johnston’s Army had been quartered at Camp Floyd as the “Utah War” was averted; an amnesty for Mormons and their leaders was declared and it began to occur to many in Washington that the Utah “Expedition” had been a large waste of funds. Nevertheless, relations reMained prickly between the Army and the locals. Wilson was one of several new federal officials appointed as Territorial Governor Alfred Cumming took the helm.
LDS Apostle John Taylor commented in a letter, “Mr. Wilson, States Attorney, conducts himself respectably.” While reporting a murder trial, the Journal History commented, “Mr. Alex Wilson, the U.S. District Attorney, displayed great talent and energy of character in the prosecution and left no stone unturned to procure such a solution of the intimidating case as would be creditable to the administration.” Wilson apparently paid occasional courtesy calls on Brigham Young, and with his wife accepted such calls from Church leaders, and a few months later shared with Apostle George A. Smith a letter of recommendation from U.S. Attorney General J.S. Black “showing [Wilson’s] standing in stating his determination to carry out the law and Maintain justice.”
Wilson continued to be a locally popular U.S. Attorney for the balance of his term until the newly elected Lincoln administration chose its own officials.
Hosea Stout occupies a rather unique place among Utah’s U.S. Attorneys. Of the early territorial U.S. Attorneys, he is probably the one about whom the most is known, about whom the most has been written, and whose journals have been preserved for their own historic value. He was closely acquainted with Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith and served as his bodyguard, and later became a confidante of Brigham Young, especially on legal matters. He was the last Utahn and last Mormon to be appointed as U.S.Attorney in Utah during the territorial period, perhaps chosen by the Lincoln administration as one means of easing Mormon unrest during a time when federal troops were desperately needed elsewhere.
Stout was born September 18, 1810 in Danville, Kentucky. He was raised in Ohio, and moved to Illinois to teach school when he was eighteen. He moved to Missouri in 1837 and joined the LDS Church the following year. When Brigham Young organized the provisional government of the “State of Deseret” in 1849, Stout was named Attorney General, and two years later was elected a member of the first Territorial Assembly in Utah. Stout retired from public life in 1877 due to ill health and moved to Holladay where he died on March 2, 1889.
Charles Hempstead was a Californian who, prior to his appointment as U.S. Attorney, had already seen federal service. An 1859 newspaper article lists him as Superintendent of the United States Mint in San Francisco. He came to Utah in a military capacity as a member of the Third California Infantry or Second California Calvary under Col. Patrick Edward Connor when Abraham Lincoln called for volunteer units from California to replace “home guard” units in Utah in August 1861. Hempstead served as editor of the Camp Douglas daily newspaper, The Union Vedette (see chapter 8, events 3-4 in Chronology for 1862 and event 4 in 1863.) After Connor’s troops established the Fort, U.S. Territorial District Attorneys occasionally called upon the Army for assistance in quartering prisoners or helping to Maintain public order.
Hempstead was appointed U.S. Attorney for Utah in 1867 by President Andrew Johnson. Hempstead resigned as U.S. Attorney in 1871. On September 28, 1879, the Deseret News announced, “Maj. C.H. Hempstead, for many years a resident of this city and a prominent member of the legal fraternity, died at his residence in the 17th Ward yesterday afternoon. He had been suffering for a long time from a stroke of paralysis, which partially deprived him of the use of his limbs and death resulted from the same cause.”
George Caesar Bates was born in 1814 or 1815 in New York and practiced law in Michigan, Illinois, and California. He was one of the organizers of the national Whig party and was said to be a “bosom friend” of William Henry Harrison, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster. He had served as United States Attorney for California in 1870, appointed by President Millard Fillmore.
By his own account, “In November 1871, at the suggestion of Senator Trumbull, Judges Drummond and Blodgett of the United States Court of Illinois, I was nominated as United States District Attorney of Utah, and having lost all in the Chicago fire, I accepted the position and came to Salt Lake.” George Bates occupies a rather unique position among U.S. Attorneys of the territorial period – perhaps no other who held the post managed to be as highly esteemed by a majority of Utahns during his term and so thoroughly vilified after. His opposition to Judge McKean’s use of prosecutorial power and criminal jurisdiction highlighted the weaknesses that eventually led to the judge’s dismissal, although McKean outlasted Bates in office.
In late December, 1872, it was announced that President Grant had removed Bates as United States District Attorney, apparently because of his opposition to Judge McKean.
When George Cesar Bates was removed as U. S. Attorney (apparently over his disagreement with Judge James McKean and the judge’s expansive view of federal court jurisdiction), he was replaced by William Carey of Galena, Illinois, appointed by President Grant. When Carey was removed from office, the Salt Lake Herald, one of Salt Lake City’s pro-Mormon newspapers, commented, “Just why Judge Carey has been removed does not appear, unless it is that there are so many men to whom Grant must give an office, and he feels it to be necessary to hasten matters. . . Mr. Carey has held the place for a couple of years, and has given as good general satisfaction as either of his predecessors, and unlike some of those before him, he goes out of office with therespect and good will of the people. Next!”
Sumner Howard, another appointee of President Ulysses S. Grant, followed William Carey into the office. Howard and his family had been among the first European settlers in Flint County, Michigan, where he studied law under William M. Fenton, a state senator and Lieutenant Governor, and Colonel in the Fenton Light Guards, the cavalry company he recruited for service in the Civil War. Howard apparently had a good reputation as a criminal lawyer and was elected county prosecutor twice, once in 1858 and again following the War. He was appointed United States District Attorney for the Territory of Utah by President Grant and confirmed by the Senate on August 25, 1876.
In June, 1877, Howard traveled to Washington to meet with President Rutherford B. Hayes and Attorney General Devens and emerged with the news that Washington had decided to strengthen the hand of U.S. officials in Utah to prosecute polygamy, including the promise of “a sufficient military force to enforce the judgment of the courts” if necessary. The Associated Press correspondent in Salt Lake City wrote, “The suppressed excitement here occasioned by the pro mise that Government is at last taking a real interest in Mormon affairs, and the punishment of miscreants in Utah, is unprecedented, and District Attorney Howard is the lion of the day.”
After leaving Utah, Howard returned to Flint, Michigan, was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives, and became Speaker. President Chester A. Arthur later appointed him as chief justice of the territorial courts in Arizona, and he fulfilled a four-year term there before he returned to Flint. There he practiced law and farmed until his death in 1890.
Philip T. Van Zile was 34 years old in late January, 1878, when President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him as District Attorney for the Territory of Utah. He was born in Osceola, Pennsylvania on July 20, 1843, graduated from Alfred University in New York and received his law degree from the University of Michigan. He was admitted to the Michigan Bar in 1867 and served as both a prosecuting attorney and a probate judge. In 1875 he was elected as a judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Michigan.
In October, 1882, Van Zile accepted the nomination of the Liberal Party as its candidate for Utah’s territorial delegate to Congress. Returns from the November 7 balloting showed 22,089 votes for incumbent John T. Caine of the People’s Party and 4,884 votes for Van Zile. Van Zile filed protests with the Utah Commission on the basis, among others, that the size and shape of the ballots made it possible visually to determine which ticket was being voted for. The protests were denied.
Later that month Van Zile left for a two-month stay in Washington. It was initially thought that his purpose was to contest Caine’s right to take his seat in Congress, and it appeared later that he also conferred with Congressmen about the need for stiffer anti-polygamy laws.
In the summer of 1883 it was announced that Van Zile was leaving the U.S. Attorney’s post. At some point he returned to Michigan. He died of anemia in Detroit on October 26, 1917.
William Dickson began his service as U.S. District Attorney “at the hottest period of the State’s history, when the future of the State was in turmoil regarding the legal status of polygamy. During the first months of his term he prosecuted the initial polygamy case in the period, the Rudger Clawson matter, as well as other important test cases produced under the Edmunds Act and later the Edmunds-Tucker Act.” Dickson was both respected and vilified at the time, and survived the office to have a very successful private practice and even to represent the LDS Church in some of its legal matters.
He was born on August 29, 1847, in King County, New Brunswick, Canada, received his early education in St. Johns, New Brunswick, and practiced law there. In June, 1874, he moved to Virginia City, Nevada, where he practiced for the next eight years. He married Annie Earl in 1875.In 1882, Dickson moved to Salt Lake City; his law partner, Charles Varian, soon followed and they resumed their partnership in Utah. He was nominated by President Chester A. Arthur as Territorial District Attorney for Utah on February 5, 1884, and selected Varian as his Assistant.
In October, 1885, it became known that Dickson had submitted his resignation as District Attorney. As to the reason, Varian replied to a reporter, “We feel we can do better for ourselves by practicing as a private firm.” The Deseret Evening News.In late December, however, the newspapers reported that Dickson had withdrawn his resignation. “The Attorney General requested me to withdraw it in November,” Dickson explained to the press. “I had intended to stand by my action in resigning, but I heard, a day or two ago, that a story, started undoubtedly by the Mormons, was being circulated by my Gentile enemies to the effect that I had sold out to the Mormon Church, and that they had paid me for resigning.
The best and only way to meet that charge is to go back and continue the fight.” Asked if he had ever been threatened, Dickson responded, “Oh, yes, any number of times; but the letters containing the threats were all anonymous, and I have paid no attention to them. You have probably seen, however, that they had made an attempt to destroy my house and kill me by throwing a bomb into it,” apparently referring to the incident the previous September. Sixteen months later, though, the Salt Lake Herald trumpeted in a headline, “THE AX FALLS! And Dickson’s Head Rolls in the Basket. HE RESIGNED BY REQUEST.” Dickson had, indeed, resigned at the request of the Attorney General, whose telegram “intimated that my resignation would be accepted; that’s about all.” Chief Judge Charles Zane was also relieved of his duties at the time (temporarily, as it turned out) apparently on the decision of President Cleveland to replace the federal officers in Utah who were perceived as acting most vindictively. (The decision was reversed two years later by President Benjamin Harrison when Zane returned and Varian was appointed U.S. Attorney.)
Dickson died in Los Angeles on January 18, 1924.
George S. Peters, newly appointed to replace William H. Dickson, reached Salt Lake City by railroad on May 5, 1887, and on the following day was admitted to practice before the Third District Court and filed his commission as United States District Attorney for Utah. Peters was appointed by President Grover Cleveland and, for the period 1870 to 1890, was the only U.S. Attorney for Utah who was a Democrat – all the rest were Republicans.
Form 1890 thru 1949 ten U.S. Attorneys served in the Utah district.
Charles Stetson Varian was born in Dayton, Ohio on September 10, 1846 of French Hugenot and Mayflower ancestry. After attending Urbana University in Ohio, at age 20, he struck out for the West. After a brief sojourn in California he settled in Nevada in 1867. He became treasurer of Humboldt County a year later, County Clerk in 1870, and a State Senator from that county in 1872. He was admitted to the Nevada Bar in 1871 and married Florence Guthrie the same year; they eventually became the parents of four sons. Varian held another term in the State Senate, then from 1876 to 1883 served as United States Attorney for Nevada during the Grant, Hayes, and Garfield administrations. He was elected to the legislature again from Washoe County in 1882, and the next session became Speaker of the Nevada House of Representatives.
When he was appointed U.S. Attorney, Charles Varian brought an impressive array of experience not only from his years as William Dickson’s assistant but also as a former U.S. Attorney and public servant in Nevada. He was directly involved in the “anti-polygamy wars” in Utah’s courts in the 1880s and served as U.S. Attorney in 1890 when the LDS Church officially abandoned the practice; yet he managed to go on to a distinguished career of public and legal service in Utah and, apparently, to be generally well respected by both Mormon and non-Mormon camps. His career exemplified able service as a federal prosecutor during the contentious pre-statehood years coupled with reconciliation in later times.
After leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office and returning to full-time private practice, in 1895 Varian was elected to the Utah House of Representatives and the Utah Constitutional Convention, convened to draft a charter for the State of Utah in anticipation of statehood. Both the Convention record and contemporary opinion indicate that Varian played a strong role. Of the 107 delegates (he was one of 29 non-Mormons elected), “The most prominent lawyer and a recognized expert in constitutional and statutory law was Charles S. Varian, a former U.S. District Attorney.
Varian died at age 76 on March 25, 1922
John Judd, a Tennesseean, came to Utah on a federal appointment and stayed for eleven years. During that period he served as a territorial judge, practiced law, helped found the Democratic Party in Utah, and acted as the last territorial district attorney and the first United States District Attorney after statehood. He was at center stage at a crucial, active time in Utah history; after his death, he would be lauded by some as the one “largely responsible for the admission of Utah into the union.”
Judd apparently played a significant role in the drive for statehood. In 1892, for example, before his tenure as Territorial District Attorney but having served as a territorial judge, his public opinion was sought on statehood questions. He responded to a reporter, “No man wants statehood worse than I do, but no man is any more unwilling to see it until conditions are suitable. Time for it, in my deliberate opinion, is not here yet. . . . I am satisfied that the political preferences of the Mormon people are not formed. They are not educated yet in American politics; and as this is a party-governed country, people must be educated in the American system of politics before they are ready to assume responsibilities of State Government.” One of the political accommodations which facilitated statehood was the end of “the continued division on religious party lines between the People’s and the Liberal Parties.” From 1891 to 1893, the two Utah parties disbanded and their adherents chose up sides between the more traditional national Democrat and Republican Parties. Judd was instrumental in helping to establish the Democratic Party in Utah, and he “traveled throughout the state, from St. George on the south to Richmond on the north, and spoke in nearly every city and town in support of statehood and the Democratic party, of which he was an uncompromising member.”
Utah finally achieved statehood on January 6, 1896, and one week later, Judd was appointed the first United States District Attorney in Utah. Judge Judd served as U.S. Attorney until June, 1898, and left Salt Lake City the following year to return to his home in Nashville. He resumed his legal practice there and was appointed counsel for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. In 1903 he was elected to a professorship in the law department at Vanderbilt University, a position he held until his death. At the request of the Secretary of War, he also assisted in the establishment of government for Puerto Rico. In later years he moved to Gallatin, Tennessee where he owned a farm. He died on January 27, 1919.
In 1898, President William McKinley appointed as U.S. Attorney for Utah a young Republican lawyer who made an impact both in politics and in the history of railroads in the state. Charles O. Whittemore was born in Salt Lake City on June 29, 1862. His father, Joseph, immigrated from Brooklyn, New York, to Utah in the early 1850s and his maternal grandfather, Joseph Busby, arrived with the second company of pioneers in 1848. (Reportedly Busby was long a prominent member of the LDS Church until he differed with its leaders over policy and severed relations.) Joseph Whittemore died when Charles, the oldest of his five children, was fourteen, and Charles worked from that point on to help support his mother and siblings.
Charles earned enough to attend St. Mark’s School in Salt Lake City where he graduated with honors in 1882. He then began to study law in the office of Philip T. VanZile, then the United States District Attorney for Utah. Whittemore was admitted to the Utah Bar the following year and was named an Assistant Salt Lake City Attorney. He resigned that post in October, 1883, and took further law instruction at Columbia University in New York City until the next year.
After his return to Salt Lake City Whittemore continued to practice law and married Sarah L. Brown in November, 1886; they eventually had two daughters and a son. That same year he worked for a short time for William Dickson in the U.S. District Attorney’s Office.
Charles Whittemore’s service as U.S. Attorney ended when his term expired in 1902. In 1904 he moved to Los Angeles where he continued to practice law and to engage in railroad, mining, and land development. Among other achievements, one of his obituaries stated that he had been president of the Las Vegas Land and Water Company and “one of the founders of Las Vegas, Nevada.” His practice in Los Angeles was largely limited to corporate business.
Whittemore’s son, Joseph, died in Los Angeles at age 30 in August, 1919. The following Memorial Day weekend, Whittemore was traveling with his wife and daughter for a visit to San Diego. They stopped for the night at Escondido, where Whittemore was found dead in his hotel room the following morning. A coroner’s jury ruled that his unexpected death at age 58 was due to heart failure. Family members felt that his son’s death may have contributed to his own early passing.
Lippman was born on June 19, 1858 in Mobile, Alabama, the son of a cotton planter and slave owner. His father died when he was six years old, and the family moved to Philadelphia where Lippman graduated from Central High School in 1875. He studied law in the offices of Eli K. Price and J. Sergeant Price in Philadelphia and graduated from the Law Department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1879 with an LL.B. degree. He was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar that same year and then, as he moved first to Chicago and then to Gunnison, Colorado, was admitted to practice in Illinois (1880) and Colorado (1881). He moved to Salt Lake City in August, 1882.
Lippman balanced most of his professional career between the law and newspaper publishing. Two months after his arrival in Salt Lake City he established the Evening Chronicle, the first civilian “Gentile” or non-LDS evening paper in the territory, and secured the Associated Press franchise for that paper. The next year he became city editor of the Salt Lake Tribune and later the telegraph editor, a position he retained until 1889, when he resumed his legal practice. From 1890 to 1891, he served as territorial librarian and statistician for Utah, and from 1892 to1893, as county recorder for Salt Lake County. He was a member of the firm of Powers, Straup, and Lippman from 1894 to 1903.
In the meantime, Lippman became involved in Utah politics. In 1901 the Republican-controlled Utah legislature had elected Park City and Salt Lake City mining millionaire Thomas Kearns as the State’s junior senator. A prominent Catholic, Kearns also had the support of a number of LDS officials, including Church President Lorenzo Snow. Joseph Lippman, by then an active worker for the “Silver Republican” branch of the party, managed Kearns’s campaign. On April 22, 1902, Lippman was appointed U.S. District Attorney for Utah by President Theodore Roosevelt, upon Senator Kearns’s recommendation. Lippman was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in in early June.
Lippman completed his four-year term as U.S. Attorney. At that point Senator Smoot, by then Utah’s senior senator, recommended that Hiram Booth take the post. Lippman moved with his wife Lehella to Santa Monica, California, in 1919. “He engaged in no business activity [there], but devoted his leisure to music and art, being widely known in Southern California as a patron of the arts.” He died in Santa Monica on August 10, 1935, at age 77.
Hiram Booth came to the U.S. Attorney’s Office at a politically charged time in Utah. He eventually served for seven years, five and one-half months, but his confirmation was likely the most contentious of any U.S. Attorney’s in Utah since statehood, and he was the only Utah U.S. Attorney who was removed from office by a new President upon his refusal to resign.
Hiram Evans Booth was born on a farm near Postville, Iowa, on October 25, 1860. He grew up on the farm, attending district schools particularly in the winter months when farm work didn’t require his full attention. He left the farm when he was 18, attended school continuously for about two years, and later “read law” in the law offices of Frank Shinn of Carson, Iowa. He was admitted to practice in Iowa in 1885 and formed a partnership with Shinn. That same year he began a long-term second career as a newspaper editor and publisher as he purchased a half interest in the Carson Critic.Booth married Carrie Robinson in 1886; they had a daughter before Carrie died. Booth then married Lillian Redhead in 1889, and they had two more daughters.
In December, 1888, Booth moved to Salt Lake City and was admitted to the Utah Bar in 1889. He helped form the firm Booth, Lee, & Gray which underwent personnel changes over the years, eventually becoming Booth, Lee, Badger, Rich & Parke, with offices in the Boston Building. A sympathetic biographical sketch recounted that he had “since continuously engaged in practice and has won recognition as an able and distinguished representative of the Utah Bar. The strength of his argument has been based upon the thorough preparation of his cases and his comprehensive understanding of the principles of jurisprudence. He was never at fault in the application of such a principle and his recognized ability has won him a most extensive and distinctively representative clientage.”Booth was a Master Mason and, from his early days in Utah, a staunchly active Republican. He was elected in 1893 to the Territorial Senate of Utah (serving in the final session of that body), and in 1896 was elected a member of the first State Senate, where he served for one term.
On June 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it had been informed that a protest against Booth’s confirmation would be forwarded from parties in Utah, and the Salt Lake Herald reported, “It is apparent Booth is not to be confirmed without contest.” Senator Fred T. DuBois of Idaho, who opposed Smoot reMaining in the Senate, opined that “there was a fair chance to defeat Booth’s confirmation,” and a possibility that a fight may be prolonged until fall.
The protests, apparently authored by a combination of disgruntled Republicans, Democrats, and members of the anti-Mormon American party, centered on Booth’s attitude toward enforcement of the anti-polygamy laws against those who had entered into the marriages before the practice was banned by the LDS Church’s Manifesto in 1890. In the fractious pre-statehood period, Booth had served a two-year term as United States Commissioner, and at one point was directed by the Territorial Supreme Court to tender his resignation, which he refused to do.
During his term, in addition to other public, political, and publishing activities, Booth was appointed Judge Advocate General for Utah by Governor William Spry in January, 1909, and again in 1913, and served as a Colonel on the Governor’s Staff. In 1905 he helped to incorporate and served as President of the Intermountain Republican Printing Company, publishers of the Intermountain Republican, which soon consolidated with the Salt Lake Herald and became known as the Herald-Republican. Booth also served as the newspaper’s treasurer and a member of its board of directors.
Hiram Booth had been reappointed to a second term by President William Howard Taft on June 24, 1910. The 1912 election saw the Republicans nationally split between Taft and Teddy Roosevelt on the Bull-Moose ticket, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected. At some point in the early months of the new administration, apparently the custom was followed of requesting the resignations of the previous administration’s appointees. Booth refused to go voluntarily. On December 20, 1913, the Salt Lake Tribune reported: “Hiram E. Booth, United States district attorney for Utah, was yesterday removed from office on the order of President Woodrow Wilson. The order was received by Mr. Booth yesterday afternoon and was operative at the close of business yesterday. The removal of the district attorney followed his recent refusal to resign at the request of the attorney general.” AUSA William McCrea would take over as acting U.S. Attorney until the appointed successor, William Ray, was approved. The Tribune piece related that Aquila Nebeker had been recommended to President Wilson for the post by the Department of Justice but the “fight for the district attorneyship has been one of the sharpest engaged in by Utah Democrats.” Booth sent a telegram to Utah’s senators expressing his desire that Ray be confirmed as quickly as possible.
Hiram Booth died in Los Angeles on July 10, 1940, at age 79, following a six-week illness.
While Taft carried Utah, he ran a poor third nationally and Woodrow Wilson was elected President, the first Democrat in twenty years. Although the Utah legislature went solidly Republican, “Wilson began dismantling the Federal Bunch’s base by appointing Democrats to replace Smoot’s friends in Utah’s federal offices.”One of Wilson’s appointments was William Ray as U.S. Attorney in 1913 – at age 33, one of the youngest U.S. Attorneys in the State’s history.
William W. Ray was born December 19, 1880, in Deseret, Millard County, Utah. After his public school education he attended Brigham Young Academy (1893-96) and the University of Utah (1897-1902) and graduated from the University with a B.A. degree. He then taught history in the Salt Lake High School for a year and was an Assistant Professor of Political Economy at the University of Utah for a year. In the meantime he had studied law in the offices of Senator Joseph L. Rawlins, and on May 6, 1904, was admitted to the Utah Bar.
After five years of solo practice, Ray became a member of the firm of Rawlins, Ray, and Rawlins. One sympathetic biographical sketch, written during the time of his service as U.S. Attorney, opined that his law firm was “recognized as one of the most prominent in the State. Mr. Ray, like his associates, is recognized as a man of superior ability in the line of his profession. He has also won himself very favorable criticism for the systematic methods which he has followed. He displays marked concentration and close application, and his retentive memory has often excited the surprise of his professional colleagues. He stands high, especially in the discussion of intricate legal matters before the court, for his comprehensive knowledge of the law and correct application of legal principles attest the breadth of his professional acquirement.”Ray married Leda Rawlins (a daughter of his mentor, Senator Joseph Rawlins) on June 20, 1905, and they eventually became the parents of four children.
Ray was appointed as U.S. Attorney by President Woodrow Wilson and sworn in on December 19, 1913. Ray served until late 1919, spanning the years of United States’ involvement in World War I. He returned to private practice and was succeeded by his Assistant, Blair Evans. In February, 1957, William Ray was named a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, in recognition of “character, achievement, and professional stature.” On June 3 of that year, Ray, age 76, died of a heart ailment in Salt Lake City.
After William Ray announced his resignation as U.S. Attorney, effective December 31, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Isaac Blair Evans of Salt Lake City as his replacement. Senate confirmation followed quickly, and Evans was sworn in before Judge Tillman D. Johnson. Blair Evans was born on May 22, 1885 in Ogden. After an education in the Ogden public schools, he attended Harvard College and graduated in 1908 with an A.B. degree. The following year he married Grace Grant, a daughter of Heber J. Grant, the LDS Apostle who became Church President in 1918.
Evans was a professor of history for a time at the Utah Agricultural College in Logan, and then returned to Harvard where he graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1913. He was admitted to the Utah Bar in October of that year, and began his law practice in partnership with L.R. Martineau, Jr., in their office on the seventh floor of the Walker Bank Building at Second South and Main Street.Evans’s time in office was dominated by the enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment in January, 1920, and the subsequent enactment of the Volstead Act and other criminal statutes – all aimed at attempting to enforce National Prohibition. Evans saw the beginning of the enforcement effort in Utah and the filing of criminal prosecutions against mostly small-scale violators – a trend that would continue full bore during the terms of his two successors
Blair Evans’s tenure as U.S. Attorney was foreshortened by national politics and the election of 1920. “Disillusioned by the crusade to make the world safe for democracy and ravaged by a postwar depression that began in 1919 and that hit mining and agriculture especially hard, Utahns and other Americans turned back to the Republican Party. Utahns rejected the team of James M. Cox of Ohio, and Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York, as well as Parley P. Christensen – an attorney and former Republican who had passed through the Progressive Party on the way to the Farmer-Labor Party in 1920 – the first Utahn to run for the presidency. Instead, they overwhelmingly supported the Republican candidates: Ohio Senator William G. Harding and Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge.” Evans left the office in 1921; Harding was sworn in as President and appointed Charles Morris to the Utah post.
Isaac Blair Evans died on May 7, 1941, at age 55 in Pasadena, California. He was lauded in the Salt Lake City press as “a brilliant lawyer. . . . In Masonic circles he rose to the topmost honors and the highest degrees. In every capacity in which he had served the public or his clients, Isaac Blair Evans acquitted himself with credit, with ever-increasing prominence and popularity
Charles Morris served as U.S. Attorney during the decade of the 1920s when much of the nation’s and Utah’s public and law enforcement attention were turned toward National Prohibition. His appointment followed enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment by about a year; he left the office several months before “Black Thursday,” the stock market collapse of October, 1929, heralded the beginning of the Great Depression. Morris’s parents were both pre-railroad pioneers. His father, Robert Morris, emigrated from England in 1861, and his mother, Josephine Meyer, came from her native Germany to Utah in 1862. Robert Morris participated in the Indian expedition to Sanpete County in 1867 during the Black Hawk War; became one of the first in the State to engage in the wool, hide, and tanning businesses; and served on the Salt Lake City Council in 1897 and 1898. Charles was the second of five sons born to the family, along with six daughters.
Charles Meyer Morris was born on June 18, 1882, in Salt Lake City. After graduating from the public schools and serving an LDS Church mission to Germany from 1900 to 1904, he attended classes at the LDS University and the University of Utah, where he captained one of the first U. of U. football teams. In his junior year he left Utah and entered George Washington University in Washington, D.C. to study law. Twin loves of football and politics asserted themselves and he played for GWU while beginning service as private secretary to Utah’s Republican Senator Reed Smoot in March, 1907. Morris had married Elizabeth Bowring in 1905. Their oldest daughter, Ruth, died at age 2-1/2, and they had two sons and another daughter.Morris graduated from George Washington University with an LL.B. in February, 1908, and was admitted to the Utah Bar later that year. The work in Washington continued, however, as he served as secretary of the Congressional Printing Investigation Committee from 1909 to 1911, and continued as Smoot’s private secretary until May, 1911.
Upon his return to Salt Lake City Morris served as Deputy County Attorney in Salt Lake County (May 1911 to August 1913) and became a member of the firm of Stewart, Bowman, & Morris. He later became senior partner in the firm of Morris and Callister. Over time described variously as a “staunch Republican” and as “one of the leaders of the Republican party in Utah,” he served for a time as President of the Young Men’s Republican Club of Salt Lake County and was chairman of the Republican.Nationally the call for a “return to normalcy” returned the Republicans to the White House in the election of 1920, and President Warren G. Harding appointed Morris as United States District Attorney for Utah on June 1, 1921. He was sworn in before Judge Tillman Johnson on June 22.
After more than seven years’ service in the office, Charles Morris submitted his resignation to Washington on January 14, 1929. Maintaining a private practice along while serving as U.S. Attorney was then permitted, and Morris was a senior partner in Morris and Callister. The Salt Lake Telegraph reported, “He stated that the pressure of private business in his firm would not permit him the time to discharge the work in the United States attorney’s office.” Morris successfully continued in private practice and a broad range of professional and civic service, including active membership in the American Bar Association, the Elks Club, the Native Sons of Utah, and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.He died at age 64 on January 12, 1947, in Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake Tribune editorially praised him as a “native son of Utah [who] has closed a long and successful career in the legal profession.”
Charles Hollingsworth was born in Ogden in 1877. His father was a veteran of the Union Army who came west with the Union Pacific Railroad as an engineer and was present at the joining of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory in 1869. Charles graduated from Ogden High School and early immersed himself in Republican politics. He went to work for the Weber County Clerk’s office the day after his graduation, and four years later, at age 21, was elected as Weber County Clerk. He was re-elected to two more two-year terms. During his six years as County Clerk he studied law and was admitted to the Bar and Utah Supreme Court in 1905.
Hollingsworth opened a solo practice in Ogden and continued to pursue an interest in State politics. He was elected to the State Senate in 1904 at age 27, and served until 1909. He returned to the Senate in 1926 and 1928, serving as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee for both terms. Hollingsworth had also served since 1907 as one of the Utah Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, was secretary to the Board of Trustees of the State Industrial School from 1907 to 1910, was a member of the American Bar Association and frequently served as the Utah member of its executive council, and served as President of the Utah State Bar from 1935 to 1937. He was a Utah delegate to the Republican National Convention of 1912 in Chicago, and chaired the Republican State Convention in Provo in 1924 which elected delegates to the national convention in Cleveland where Calvin Coolidge was nominated. Following his successful re-election, President Coolidge appointed Hollingsworth as U.S. District Attorney for Utah upon C.M. Morris’s resignation. Although Hollingsworth stated when the appointment was announced that he thought he would be able to finish out his work with the current session of the Utah State Senate, he resigned the senatorial post in March, 1929, at the time of his swearing-in as U.S. Attorney.
The election of 1932 brought FDR’s New Deal to the White House and an end of twelve years of Republican administrations. Charles Hollingsworth left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1933, apparently not enjoying robust health even then.Charles Hollingsworth returned to private practice in Ogden, but died of a heart attack at his home in the Hotel Ben Lomond on Monday, May 18, 1936. He was 58 years old.
Dan B. Shields was born August 9, 1878 on a farm in Crawford County in southeastern Kansas. He was five years old when his parents moved to Park City, Utah, where Dan grew up. He was educated in Summit County Schools, at All Hallows College in Salt Lake City, and at St. Francis College in St. Paul, Kansas. On the way he volunteered for service in the Spanish-American War, rising to the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant in his cavalry troop. Shields received his law degree from Cumberland University (the same law school attended by Utah’s Federal District Judge, Tillman D. Johnson) and became a member of the Utah State Bar on March 4, 1904. He served on the Park City Council and was City Attorney there for a time before moving to Salt Lake City in 1908.
Dan Shields was a lifelong, dedicated Democrat (an obituary at his death in 1970 claimed that he had served as Chairman of the Salt Lake County Democratic State Central Committee and as a member of the Democratic State Executive Committee since 1921), and he represented a Salt Lake County district in the Utah House of Representatives from 1915 to 1916. Then, as one newspaper account later put it, “Working for the Democratic party in many lean years won Mr. Shields recognition in 1916 when he was elected State Attorney General, serving from 1917 - 1920.” After leaving the Attorney General’s post, Shields resumed private practice and later was elected to the Utah State Senate. He was in that office at the time of his federal appointment and mailed his resignation to Utah Governor Henry H. Blood before taking the oath of office.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Shields as United States District Attorney for Utah on June 16, 1933 (and appointed Mrs. W. S. McQuilkin as Collector of Customs for Utah on the same day.) He was sworn in at a formal ceremony in Judge Tillman Johnson’s courtroom on Monday morning, June 26, 1933.Dan Shields turned 70 on August 9, 1948 and, under then-prevailing federal law, retirement was mandatory. Shields filed his formal notification of retirement with Court Clerk V. P. Ahlstrom at 5:00 p.m. on February 11, 1949. At age 91, Dan Shields died of natural causes at his home on 322 Douglas Street in Salt Lake City, on January 4, 1970.
From 1950 to the present twelve U.S. Attorneys have served the District of Utah.
When Dan Shields stepped down, his Assistant Scott Matheson was immediately named as Acting District Attorney and soon formally appointed to the post by President Harry S. Truman. Matheson had served as an Assistant United States Attorney since 1934 and brought with him a wealth of experience from the hundreds of cases he had handled on behalf of the United States.
Scott Milne Matheson was born on August 9, 1897, at Parowan, Utah, to David and Sarah Matheson. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I, 1917 to 1919, attended the University of Utah, and married Adele Adams in 1922. They became the parents of three sons and a daughter. Matheson worked as an instructor and high school coach in Parowan from 1922 to 1924, then headed east. He received an L.L.B. degree from the University of Chicago in 1925 and did further graduate work at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
Matheson returned to Cedar City in 1930 and was admitted to the Utah Bar that same year. He opened his practice with the firm of Morris and Matheson. He also served as an instructor at the Branch Agricultural College in Cedar City (later the College of Southern Utah and later yet, Southern Utah University) from 1931 to 1934, and as Iron County Attorney from 1932 to 1934. He was active in the American Legion and was a member of the Parowan LDS Stake Presidency for three years before the appointment came as an AUSA and the family moved to Salt Lake City. In his many years of courtroom practice, Matheson had honed an impressive trial presence which he shared freely with younger attorneys. “From what I’ve been told from lawyers who practiced at that time,” Scott M. Matheson, Jr. relates, “he apparently was quite the courtroom orator. He was one of those trial lawyers when there was a closing argument that people would like to come and listen to him argue. I think through the legal community that was well recognized. He was quite accomplished in front of a jury. I think he was looked to as a mentor/role model – not just within that office because it wasn’t very big. For instance, President [James] Faust [of the LDS Church Presidency, a former attorney] speaks very fondly of that relationship and how the lawyers who were a little bit younger would look up to him in terms of his skills in the courtroom.”
Still a relatively young 55, Scott Matheson resigned in early 1953. No doubt the change in Presidential political party was a factor, and his own health concerns may have also played a role. Matheson returned to private practice. He died of a heart attack only five years later on October 4, 1958, at age 61. He was buried in the Parowan Cemetery, survived by his wife, four children, and five grandchildren. His combined 19 years of service as an AUSA and as U.S. Attorney likely comprised the longest term of service in the office for any individual who has been appointed U.S. Attorney for Utah.
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s election as President in 1952 broke the five-term Democratic lock on the White House and also heralded the appointment of a new U.S. Attorney in Utah. Pratt Kesler would become only the second person in Utah history to serve as both U.S. Attorney from the District of Utah and as Utah Attorney General, as well as the only former U.S. Attorney to return later in his career to work for a substantial period as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.Alonzo Pratt Kesler was born in Salt Lake City in 1905. After graduating from LDS High School and serving a church mission in France and Belgium, he graduated from the University of Utah with an AB degree in 1930, and from the University of Utah Law School with a JD degree in 1933. After two years in private practice he was appointed as Salt Lake City Prosecuting Attorney (1935-40) and subsequently served as Assistant Salt Lake City Attorney (1940-53). He was active in the county, state, and national bar associations, and was active in a broad range of civic and political spheres. He was Republican State Chairman in Utah from 1950 until his appointment as U.S. Attorney, and had been a member of the Republican National Committee, 1952-53.
Kesler was appointed U.S. Attorney by President Eisenhower, confirmed by the Senate, and took office in May, 1953. He was sworn in at an official ceremony on Friday, May 22, at 10:00 a.m. in Judge Willis Ritter’s courtroom, with Court Clerk Oliver K. Clay administering the oath. Kesler was elected Utah Attorney General in 1960 and left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in early 1961.
A. Pratt Kesler died at age 79 on October 13, 1984, in Salt Lake City, of cardiac arrest.
William T. Thurman was born in 1908 in Provo, graduated from Granite High School in Salt Lake City in 1927, and obtained a degree in history and political science from the University of Utah in 1931. He graduated from the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. with a J.D. degree in 1934. He then worked for eighteen years as counsel for various federal agencies in Washington, including the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Institute of Inter-American Affairs. Part of his work included traveling to various republics in Central and South America, negotiating economic and public health agreements with those nations.
After his return to Utah, he served for eight years as Chief Civil Deputy in the office of the Salt Lake County Attorney under County Attorney Frank E. Moss, later a U.S. Senator. He was also active in Utah Democratic politics, serving as Salt Lake County and Utah State Democratic Chairman. In 1960 he attended the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles as a Utah delegate who supported the Kennedy nomination.Thurman was nominated by President Kennedy as United States Attorney for the District of Utah in 1961, confirmed by the Senate, and sworn in on April 10. William Thurman had been appointed to a second four-year term in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, and served under Attorneys General Robert F. Kennedy, Nicholas Katzenbach, Ramsey Clark, and John Mitchell. Following the election of President Richard Nixon in 1968, Thurman submitted his resignation effective February 28, 1969. At the request of the new administration, however, he agreed to stay in the post until a successor was appointed.
After leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Thurman returned to private practice where he was president of the firm of McKay, Burton and Thurman. He also served as President of the Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake City and the Utah Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, as well as co-founding the Utah Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He retired from active practice in 1998.
William T. Thurman died in Salt Lake City on January 14, 2001, at the age of 92, less than 24 hours after the passing of his wife, Zettella.
Following the Republican presidential victory of 1968, C. Nelson Day was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon as Utah’s U.S. Attorney on July 11, 1969, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 7, and confirmed by the Senate the next day. Day was born on June 30, 1915 in Fillmore, Utah, and later graduated from Millard High School. He went on to the University of Utah, graduating with a major in economics and political science, and to the University of Utah College of Law where he was a classmate and close friend to later Utah Governor Calvin L. Rampton. Day had served as a Utah Deputy Attorney General and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney prior to 1963 when he was appointed by Rampton as a State District Judge for the Fifth Judicial District (Juab, Millard, Beaver, Iron, and Washington Counties.)
In March, 1974, President Nixon renominated Day for a second four-year term. Utah Senator Wallace F. Bennett stated at the time, “Nelson Day has served with distinction in this position and I am pleased that the President has appointed him to a second term.” The Senate approved the appointment on May 7.Nelson Day died in an automobile accident late in the evening on Sunday, November 18, 1974, four miles north of Mona on U.S. Highway 91. He had been visiting his ailing mother in Fillmore and was returning home. A black cow had wandered into a southbound lane. A semitrailer from Billings, Montana, carrying a load of oats, hit the cow, swerved out of control into the northbound lane, and struck Day’s car. Law enforcement personnel took several hours to remove his body from the car, and positive identification came several hours later.
Following C. Nelson Day’s death in late 1974, President Gerald Ford nominated Ramon M. Child as his replacement in February, 1975. Child, then 51 years old, was a native of Salt Lake City. After graduating from South High School and serving for two years in the Army Air Force during World War II, he received bachelor’s and J.D. degrees from the University of Utah. His legal practice included helping to establish the firm of Child, Spafford & Young; serving for three years as a deputy district attorney in Salt Lake County; and working as an associate and partner for Ray, Quinney & Nebeker for thirteen years. He then had his own practice for a year, specializing in civil trial work. Child was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 23, 1975. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that his swearing-in ceremony in Chief Judge Willis W. Ritter’s courtroom was presided over by Judge Ritter and Judge Aldon J. Anderson.
Brent Ward summarizes his view of Child’s tumultuous term: “Ray Child was very good. He gave the Assistants a lot of latitude and he was very decisive, and very aggressive. Those were the qualities that decided to take on Ritter. He just didn’t flinch. He was a very straightforward guy. Not a lot of nuance or subtlety. He tangled with Ritter from the beginning of his service as U.S. Attorney, so he felt the effects of it first-hand. . . . Once he had decided to do it, he didn’t hesitate. He was very good about it. . . . His relationship with Judge Ritter dominated his term.” (Indeed, when Child announced his resignation, he remarked that filing the petition for Judge Ritter’s removal from all federal cases was “the most important step” he had taken during his 30-month term.)
After his term in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Child served as an Administrative Law Judge for the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and for the Department of the Interior until his retirement in 1996. He died on March 5, 2006, in Salt Lake City.
Ron Rencher, a Utah native, had begun law school in Colorado where his family was living at the time. “I was an in-state student there. I was married to and am still married to the same girl from Utah County. When we got married she said she would live anywhere in the world. We went to Boulder Law School.” Rencher continues with a smile, “After a few months she decided that Boulder did not fit within her definition of the world. So we transferred back to the University of Utah.” After law school Rencher was hired by the David Kunz firm in Ogden where he practiced for nine years. He became active in Democratic politics and was elected to the Utah House of Representatives, eventually serving one term as Minority Whip and one term as Speaker of the House.
Rencher had become acquainted with U.S. Congressman Gunn McKay, who lived in his legislative district. In the 1976 election Senator Frank E. Moss was defeated by Orrin Hatch and, with Senator Wallace F. Bennett also serving, Utah had no Democratic U.S. Senators. As the senior Democrat member of the Utah delegation, Gunn McKay recommended Rencher for the U.S. Attorney slot, with the support of Governor Scott Matheson, and he was nominated by President Carter in March.After leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ron Rencher served as general counsel for the Intermountain Power Project, just then getting started with its financing to built the IPP electric generating/transmission facilities. He later served as general manager for IPP until the project was built, and later for the Bechtel Corporation.
Brent Ward came to the U.S. Attorney’s chair with a long familiarity with the office and a long interest in practicing there. After his graduation from the University of Utah Law School in 1972, he clerked for District Judge Aldon Anderson and in that capacity, with his fellow clerk Ralph Mabey (later a bankruptcy judge), “We would see the U.S. Attorney’s come into court and realize that would be an excellent experience for us to get a litigation background.” Ward soon contacted U.S. Attorney Ramon Child, who then presided over an office with only four Assistants. “He was very gracious,” Ward recalls, “but he told me that in their situation they could not afford to hire anybody without significant litigation experience, which was understandable. So I went about to try and gather some.”
Ward practiced in Salt Lake City with the firm of Prince, Yeates, & Geldzahler and then obtained a position on the staff of Utah Senator Wallace F. Bennett. Near the end of the Senator’s fourth and final term, he helped Ward obtain a position as a trial attorney in the Department of Justice. After a short time Ward applied again with Child and this time was hired, beginning several years’ service as an AUSA (see Chapter 30). He left the office early in Ron Rencher’s administration to accept a position litigating for the firm of Nielsen & Senior. Then, “when Reagan won in 1980, the stage was set for the possibility that I might be able to get the job,” Ward relates. “I was able to garner the support of Senator Garn who then got the Congressional delegation united behind me. They all signed a letter to the President recommending me.”
Once the nomination was made by President Reagan, however, the confirmation process dragged out for nine months. This was because a former partner of Ward’s at Nielsen & Senior was prosecuted for a financial offense involving misuse of funds of the firm. The high-profile matter attracted enough attention that the investigator for the Senate Judiciary Committee felt it merited further review. “This caused me a lot of consternation because I had started to wind down my private practice and when the delay occurred it tended to stay wound down,” Ward states. “It affected my earning capacity.” The investigator eventually concluded that Ward had nothing to do with the matter, and he was confirmed by the Committee and the Senate, and sworn in on December 7, 1981.
Ward served a full four-year term, was renominated by President Reagan on Senator Hatch’s recommendation, reconfirmed, and then served into the initial part of the George Bush administration. “I just got restless, even though I knew it was the greatest job a lawyer could have, I still got restless and thought maybe it was time to go do something else. That is really what it boiled down to.” Following his time as U.S. Attorney, Brent Ward worked as General Counsel for Jon Huntsman. He made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1992, the year, he remarks somewhat ruefully, when Bob Bennett and Joe Cannon “spent close to $6 million of their own money” on the election. He then entered private practice with the firm of Perry and Larsen, litigating civil cases for about six years, and was then counsel to Starbridge Systems, a business established by one of his clients. He recently accepted an appointment from the Department of Justice to serve as head of the Anti-Obscenity Task Force in the DOJ’s Criminal Division.
Nearly as soon as it word surfaced that long-time U.S. Attorney Brent Ward was interested in stepping down, the rumor mill also reported that Associate Deputy Attorney General Dee Benson was the odds-on favorite for appointment to the post, if interested. A headline on January 6, 1989 in the Salt Lake Tribune stated, “Ex-Hatch Aide Has ‘In’ If Ward Quits.” The accompanying story reported that Benson, a former Chief of Staff to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, had stated he would be interested in the job if and when it were open, but disclaimed any effort to campaign for the post. On January 25, when Ward announced his intended resignation, the Tribune headline read, “Hatch Swiftly Urges His Ex-Aide for U.S. Attorney,” indicating that both Utah Senators Hatch and Garn, as well as U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, supported the appointment. Less than 24 hours after the Ward announcement, Senator Hatch had announced that he would recommend Benson for the post.
Dee Benson was born in Sandy, Utah, in 1948 and grew up there, graduating from Jordan High School and Brigham Young University with a B.A. in 1973. He then entered the charter class at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, emerging with a J.D. degree in 1976. That year he also played professional soccer for a time for the Golden Spikers, Utah’s team in the soon-defunct American Soccer League. He later remarked, wryly and perhaps inaccurately, that the experience made him “realize that I didn’t have a future in professional soccer.”Upon graduation Benson entered private practice with a Salt Lake City firm, Snow, Christensen & Martineau, where he litigated for the next eight years. He then accepted the first in a series of appointments in Washington, serving as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution (1984-86); as Chief of Staff to Senator Orrin Hatch (1986-88); as Counsel to the Iran-Contra Congressional Investigating Committee (1987); and as Associate Deputy Attorney General, working with Deputy Attorney General Harold G. Christensen, a former senior partner of his at the Snow, Christensen firm.
“My nomination was moved through, I’m assuming on unanimous consent. I came out of committee about two months before I was confirmed, approximately March of 1989. It was late April or May when the Senate confirmed me. I was Interim until May and then I was confirmed by the Senate and I was off and running.”He was appointed by Attorney General Thornburgh as U.S. Attorney under an interim appointment on March 3, 1989, and was sworn in on March 7 by Chief Judge Bruce Jenkins, with Judges David Winder, J. Thomas Greene, and David Sam present.Benson’s formal swearing-in, after his nomination by President George Bush and confirmation by the U.S. Senate, followed on August 8.
In its waning hours, the 1990 Congress created 85 new judgeships nationwide, including one in Utah. Senator Hatch recommended that Dee Benson be appointed.He was nominated as a United States District Judge by President George Bush on May 16, 1991.Benson was confirmed by the Senate on September 12, 1991 and received his commission on September 16. He has served as Chief Judge of the District from 1999 to 2007. He teaches a course in evidence at the University of Utah College of Law and a course on criminal trial practice at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU. He has also been appointed to a seven-year term as a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington, D.C. and travels back for court sessions every ten weeks.
Raised in Salt Lake City, Jordan graduated in 1974 from Bowdoin College, cum laude with a B.A. degree, and from the Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1979, where he served on the editorial board of the Law Review and was named to the Order of the Coif. He served as a law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee until 1980 when he began an eleven-year career with the VanCott firm, first as an associate and later as a shareholder. During that same period he served as an Administrative Law Judge for the Utah Procurement Appeals Board (1986-91), a member of the Sutherland Inn of Court II (1986-90), and as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Southern Utah University (1989-91).
When it became clear that Benson would be appointed to the bench, Jordan “expressed my interest in the position to Senator Hatch and then Senator Garn. There were obviously a host of other people who were interested as well. As those things typically work, I think there ultimately was a collaborative decision between Senator Hatch and Senator Garn, probably with Senator Hatch playing a pre-eminent role since he was part of the Judiciary Committee. So I guess I was a consensus choice of those two. We had a Republican president at the time and it was the pleasure of the first President Bush to give a fair amount of latitude on that decision to the senior Senator from Utah.
“My confirmation process was very painless – nothing noteworthy. Obviously I had to jump through all the difficult hoops in terms of FBI background checks, but I was something of a clean one-owner, so there were no skeletons that needed to be dusted off for that process, and if you had Senator Hatch as your champion, that helped move things along in an expeditious way. So, it was an uneventful confirmation.”David Jordan’s service as U.S. Attorney, as with some of his predecessors, came to an end earlier than anticipated when the national election brought a change of political party in the White House. Of his tenure, Jordan remarks, “Two things were very satisfying for me. One was coming to understand the criminal side of the law, and trying criminal cases. It was a very enjoyable experience.
One of the other things that was a wonderful part of the experience for me was the opportunity to serve almost for my entire tenure on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C. That is a group of a few U.S. Attorneys from around the country who meet regularly with the Attorney General and advise the AG on a host of issues, principally related to Justice Department policy as it plays itself out in the reality of the work on the ground at the U.S. Attorney’s Offices. That was a really good experience. I worked with some wonderful people – Jeff Sessions, now Senator from Alabama; worked with Mike Chertoff, now the Secretary of Homeland Security; worked with a variety of other people who have gone on to do fascinating things and got an inside look at the way the Justice Department functioned. I have to say that the closer I got to it (the closer you get to work with the State Legislature, the more shaken your faith can become; in the process it is sausage-making at its worst) – the closer you get to the Justice Department the better you felt about the institution with which we were all associated. It was really a magnificent place made up of people with high ideals, the right perspective on what their jobs were about, and why they are doing what they were doing. They were dedicated career civil servants. A wonderful organization to be associated with.
Since leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, David Jordan has continued a distinguished career of service to the profession and the community. He has served as Chair of the Utah State Bar Litigation Section (1996-97), and Master of the Bench, American Inn of Court (1996 on). He returned to his post as Chair of the Board of Trustees for Southern Utah University (1993-97) and now serves as a member of the Utah State Board of Regents (from 1997), the Board of Directors of the Utah Museum of Natural History (from 1999), the Committee on Improving Jury Service (1998 on), and the Legislative Juvenile Justice Task Force (1996 on).
The grandson of a former U.S. Attorney for Utah, Scott Matheson brought a distinguished academic, legal, and public service career to the office. After completing East High School in Salt Lake City, he graduated from Stanford University in economics, Oxford University in modern history as a Rhodes Scholar, and from the Yale Law School. He practiced with the Washington, D.C. firm of Williams and Connolly for almost five years, doing both civil litigation and criminal defense with significant work in cases involving media law. He also worked as a legislative aide in the office of Congressman Wayne Owens, and managed the two successful gubernatorial campaigns of his father, Governor Scott M. Matheson. In 1985 he accepted an offer to join the faculty at the University of Utah College of Law, where he also served as Associate Dean. He was a Visiting Associate Professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and spent time in the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office as a Deputy County Attorney prosecuting criminal cases.
Following the election of President Bill Clinton in 1992, and after David Jordan completed an assignment connected with the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, Matheson was appointed U.S. Attorney by President Clinton, confirmed by the Senate, and sworn in in August, 1993. “I think the most satisfying part of the job, and this is not unique to the U.S. Attorney, when you’re making decisions and they’re important decisions about whether to charge people with serious crimes, strategic decisions about important litigation, whatever they happen to be, your touchstone is what’s in the best interests of the United States of America. That’s a great touchstone. It is not a narrow client interest that you might have to follow in a private practice situation. It is what’s in the public interest. Returning to that, whether the decision is big or small, and using that as your guide, really made making the decisions very satisfying. Not that they were easy to make, but it gave what you were doing significant purpose and a sense that you were doing something that was in service of your country and in making things better. I think that is putting something on a fairly general level, but I really think that is the most satisfying aspect of the job. The people, the cases, the particular accomplishments and so forth, all of that as well.”
In 1997, Scott Matheson faced a choice whether to continue as U.S. Attorney or to return to the University of Utah Law School. He chose the latter and was appointed Dean of the Law School and has served in that capacity until late 2006.
When Paul Warner was appointed U.S. Attorney by President Bill Clinton, he had served as Chief of the Office’s Criminal Division for nearly four years and had worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for five and one-half years before that. He brought to the table a longer experience in the office than any Utah U.S. Attorney since the first Scott Matheson, and a broad prosecutorial experience in other arenas as well. He has presided over an unprecedented era of growth and expanded service in the office.
Paul Michael Warner was born on June 11, 1949 in Seattle, Washington. He graduated from East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, and after serving an LDS mission in the Philippines received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Brigham Young University in 1973. He graduated in the charter class of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU in 1976; in 1984 he also received a Masters Degree in Public Administration from BYU.
Warner spent his first six years of practice as a trial lawyer in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the U.S. Navy, acting as both prosecutor and defense counsel, and eventually becoming Department Head and Chief Defense Counsel of the Naval JAG in San Diego. He then served nearly six years in the Utah Attorney General’s Office as a member of their litigation division, then chief of that division for almost three years, and as Associate Chief Deputy Attorney General for two and one-half years. He has also continued his military service and currently is a Colonel and the State Staff Judge Advocate in the JAG Branch of the Utah Army National Guard; he has received the Army’s Meritorious Service medal with two oak leaf clusters in recognition of his long-term service, including his work in mobilizing members of the Guard for service in Operation Desert Storm.
When Utah Attorney General David Wilkinson was defeated in his bid for a third term, Warner felt the time was ripe for a change and became the final AUSA hired by U.S. Attorney Brent Ward. Four months later, as Dee Benson became U.S. Attorney, Warner was assigned as his First Assistant, a post in which he served for the two and one-half years of Benson’s administration. His administrative leadership benefitted the office greatly at that time of transition and expansion into a larger office and more modern litigation era (see Chapter 33). Warner then prosecuted a full criminal caseload as an AUSA and served as Violent Crimes Coordinator under U.S. Attorneys David Jordan and Scott Matheson, and in September, 1994, was named by Matheson as Chief of the Office’s Criminal Division.
In 1998, after it had become known that Scott Matheson had decided to return to the University of Utah Law School, Warner felt that his background could be of benefit to the office as U.S. Attorney. While not unheard of, it is unusual for a U.S. Attorney appointment to come from the ranks of the office, but Warner had become well acquainted over the years with Senator Orrin Hatch, then Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although Warner was a Republican, Senator Hatch recommended him for the opening and President Bill Clinton agreed. Warner was formally appointed on July 29, 1998 and unanimously confirmed by the Senate two days later. He relates, “ I was sitting in my office and got a call from Senator Hatch who told me that the full Senate had just voted on and confirmed me as the United States Attorney. That was around noon or 1:00 p.m. here in Salt Lake. Shortly thereafter Judge Benson called me and said, ‘Get over here. We’re swearing you in right now.’ We ended up going over and being sworn in about 4:00 in the afternoon to the lovely strains of ‘Amazing Grace.’ Warner was officially sworn in on August 20, 1998 in the Chief Judge’s courtroom by Judge Tena Campbell. Senator Hatch and Judge Dee Benson were honored speakers, along with Ron Yengich, a well-known criminal defense attorney.
On August 4, 2003, Paul Warner received an appointment from President George W. Bush for a second term as U.S. Attorney. At his second swearing-in ceremony on September 18, Warner recounted, “Years ago when I went back to Washington to interview with then Attorney General Janet Reno to become the United States Attorney (early 1990) she said to me, and I’ve never forgotten it, as I got up to leave she called me, ‘Mr. Warner’ which goes to show you my close personal relationship with her. She said, ‘You know, Mr. Warner, you just may end up being the United States Attorney in Utah for a good long time.’ I thought about it and thought, ‘I sure hope so.’ Well, being sworn in again today by Judge Benson, I remember that conversation. It has been a pretty good run so far. I’m going to continue to march, cling to it, and do the best I can.”
During his seven and one-half years in office, Warner became undoubtedly the most-traveled U.S. Attorney in the office’s history thus far. This was due to his service on the national level within the Department of Justice, most notably (but not exclusively) during the administration of Attorney General John Ashcroft and in the aftermath of 9-11. Other Utah U.S. Attorneys had served on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (Rencher, Ward, Jordan) and as Vice-Chair of that body (Ward), but Warner was the first in the State’s history to serve as Chairman of the AGAC. Because of circumstances following 9-11, and at the Attorney General’s specific invitation, Warner’s service as Chair was extended beyond the customary one-year term to two years, from 2001 to 2003, and he continued beyond that as an ex-officio member until the end of his service as U.S. Attorney. Service on other committees and in special assignments both preceded and followed the chairmanship as well.
In December, 2005, Warner accepted an appointment in a newly created post for a fourth United States Magistrate Judge in the District of Utah. His investiture was held on February 24, 2006, ending an era of unique expansion and productivity within the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah.
Brett L. Tolman was nominated by President George W. Bush on June 9, 2006, and confirmed by the United States Senate on July 21, 2006, as the United States Attorney for the District of Utah.
Prior to becoming U.S. Attorney, Mr. Tolman served as Chief Counsel for Crime and Terrorism for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and its Chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, from 2004 to July 2006 and Counsel for Crime and Terrorism for Chairman Orrin Hatch of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee from 2003 to 2004. During his tenure with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Tolman was responsible for drafting and negotiating passage of several significant pieces of legislation, including the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and additions to the Violence Against Women Act. He also assisted in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justices and nominees for the Department of Justice, including the Attorney General of the United States.He was honored in the April 9, 2005, issue of the National Journal as one of the most influential staffers on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Tolman served several years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Utah. In addition to working in the Violent Crime Section where he prosecuted a variety of felony cases in federal court, including homicide, illegal gun manufacturing, carjacking, robbery, money laundering and bank robbery, Mr. Tolman coordinated Utah Project Safe Neighborhoods, a federal anti-gun violence reduction program. As Utah’s PSN Coordinator, Mr. Tolman worked with local, state, and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors, community partners, and others to develop one of the nation’s most successful PSN programs. More than 1,000 federal firearms cases were developed and prosecuted under Mr. Tolman’s leadership.
Mr. Tolman clerked for U.S. District Chief Judge Dee Benson from 1998-2000 and was a litigation associate for Richards, Brandt, Miller and Nelson in Salt Lake City during the summer of 1997. He received his law degree cum laude from the J. Rueben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University in 1998 where he served as Law Review Board Lead Note and Comment Editor. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from BYU in 1994 with a major in English.