Michael Wilkins is a candidate for appointment by Governor Gary Herbert to replace Utah Attorney General John Swallow, who resigned December 3. This is the fourth of a series of brief profiles on those who are known to be considering or have filed to run for the AG spot. As information on each individual comes out, I’ll update the profiles here.
Perhaps the most respected candidate who has filed for the open spot in the Utah Attorney General’s office is former Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Wilkins.
Unique among the candidates, Wilkins does not want to serve as Attorney General for longer than until the special election next year. While other potential candidates have suggested running on a similar platform, Wilkins as a former Utah Supreme Court justice brings a level of credibility that is difficult to match. According to a letter Wilkins sent to the Republican State Central Committee (“SCC”) today (and embedded below),
One critical question facing you is whether the State, the Attorney General’s Office, and the party would be benefitted most by an appointed Attorney General who is busy seeking election to the office next November, or one whose entire focus is on rehabilitating the dignity and integrity of the Office of the Attorney General.
With that in mind, said Wilkins, “I would not seek election in 2014 or thereafter. Given the turmoil of past months, I believe my calming and steady hand would benefit the work of the office, the dignity of the Attorney General’s position, and the confidence of the people of Utah.”
The question that Wilkins frames for the SCC, then, is choice between selecting a politician, whose eye is on reelection, or on one whose focus is rehabilitation of the Attorney General’s office.
Wilkins served on the Utah Supreme Court for ten years after six years on the Utah Court of Appeals. Prior to joining Utah’s appellate court system, Wilkins worked in a private practice from 1977 to 1994 that focused on civil litigation, with additional emphasis on business and individual legal planning.
Wilkins is a Utah man, earning both his undergrad degree and juris doctorate from the University of Utah. Prior to college, he was an intelligence officer in the US Army from 1968 to 1972. He has been married since 1967 to Diane W. Wilkins, a Utah juvenile court judge who retired in 2008.
Among other civic activities, Wilkins has been spent four weeks in Ukraine meeting with nearly four thousand judges to discuss the US constitutional system of criminal prosecution and jury trial. Additionally, Wilkins served as
- Commissioner of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
- Chair of the Utah Uniform Law Commission.
- Chair of the Utah Legislative Ethics Commission.
- A Member of the Utah GRAMA review commission.
- Visiting Fellow at The Wheatley Institution
Since stepping down from the Utah Supreme Court, Wilkins has worked as a mediator.
- Candidates for Utah’s AG: Brent Ward (publiusonline.com)
- Candidates for Utah’s AG: Bret Rawson (publiusonline.com)