Federal prosecutor Jeannette F. Swent is one of six people selected by the Utah Supreme Court Nominating Commission as candidates to replace retiring Justice Michael J. Wilkins, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. Wilkins will retire May 15.
Swent is the chief of the civil division at the Utah U.S. Attorney’s office. She was previously a candidate for a Utah Appeals Court vacancy in November 2009, but Gov. Gary Herbert (R) selected another candidate as the nominee.
The other fives nominees include David M. Connors, a state judge in Utah’s 2nd District; Royal I. Hansen, a state judge in Utah’s 3rd District; David Mortensen, a state judge in Utah’s 4th District; Thomas R. Lee, a lawyer and professor at Brigham Young University; and Carolyn B. McHugh, a Utah Appeals Court Judge.
The public now has 10 days to comment before the names are formally submitted to Herbert. After the comment period, Herbert will have 30 days to select a candidate. The state Senate must then vote within 60 days on whether to approve the nomination.
The suicide of an undercover operative will not hold up trials against two dozen people arrested for selling illegally obtained American Indian artifacts, the Associated Press reported today.
Acting U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen said she is certain that the cases will continue, according to the AP. U.S. Magistrate Samuel Alba set the first case for trial on May 3.
Ted Dan Gardiner shot himself on March 1, becoming the third person connected with the cases to commit suicide.
The Justice Department has been under fire for its handling of the two-year undercover probe that led to 26 indictments in the rural Four Corners area of Utah near the Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona borders.
More than 100 agents, including an FBI SWAT team, participated in the June 2009 roundup of people who allegedly plundered American Indian artifacts from public land. Although some agents reportedly had drawn their guns, the raids were carried out without violence, except for one suspect who claimed his toe had been broken.
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First Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen has been named acting U.S. Attorney in Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Christensen will steer the office until President Obama nominates, and the Senate confirms, a successor to Brett Tolman, whose resignation as U.S. Attorney was effective Thursday.
The expected nominee is former Utah Assistant U.S. Attorney David Schwendiman, who is now working overseas as an international prosecutor of war crimes in Bosnia, the newspaper reported. Read our previous report on Schwendiman and his political ties here.