Agency History 67


The office of Attorney General was created within the Executive branch in 1896. The Attorney General is to "be the legal advisor of the State officers, and shall perform such other duties as may be provided by law." (State Constitution, Article 7, Section 18). The Attorney General inherited functions previously performed by the United States District Attorney and Territorial Attorney General.


As of 1998, the Attorney General's duties include the following:

1. Prosecute or defend all causes in which the State or a state agency is a party.

2. Initiate legal proceedings on behalf of the state.

3. Direct the process of executions on judgments.

4. Account for state funds which come into possession of the office.

5. Keep a file on each case, civil or criminal, in which the Attorney General is required to appear.

6. Act as supervisor to district and county attorneys within the state.

7. Give opinions on questions of law to state agencies and to county or district attorneys.

8. Assist district or county attorneys when required by public service or by the Governor.

9. Purchase property in the name of the State offered under executions and enter partial or whole satisfactions of judgment; as directed by the Board of Examiners.

10. If a judgment debtor's property is under a prior encumbrance, the Attorney General shall redeem the property.

11. Pay costs necessary to the prosecution of any proceedings necessary to set aside fraudulent conveyances made by judgment debtors.

12. Discharge the duties of a member of any official boards of which he is legally required to be a member.

13. Prosecute corporations which act illegally.

14. Investigate in order to recover property which should revert to the state.

15. Administer the Children's Justice Center.

16. Assist the Constitutional Defense Council.

(Utah Code, Title 67 Chapter 5 Section 1).


The Attorney General is an elected position. The term of office is four years. At the time of election a candidate must be at least 25 years old, admitted to practice before the State Supreme Court, and a member of the bar in good standing. (State constitution, Article 7, Sections 1 and 3). The Attorney General may appoint a deputy (UC, 67-9-1) and has sole authority to decide who may be employed with the Office. (UC, 67-5-8).

The Attorney General also serves on a number of state boards and commissions, including the Board of Examiners (UC, 63-6-1), the State Board of Loan Commissioners (UC, 66-1-1), the Disaster Emergency Advisory Council (UC, 63-5-4), the State Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (UC, 63-25a-102), the Utah Substance Abuse and Anti-Violence Coordinating Council (UC, 63-25a-201), the Constitutional Defense Council (UC, 63C-4-101), State Board of Canvassers (UC, 20A-4-306), and the Board of Control of the State Law Library (UC, 9-7-30).

The Attorney General or a designated representative must also serve on other state boards and commissions, such as the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (UC, 53-6-106), the Advisory Board to the Office of State Debt Collection (UC, 63A-8-202), the Sentencing Commission (UC, 63-25a-301), the Utah State Juvenile Sex Offender Authority within the Department of Human Services, Division of Youth Corrections (UC, 62A-7-401), the Controlled Substance Database Advisory Committee (UC, 58-37-7.5), and the Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Advisory Council (UC, 53-8-203). The Attorney General must also appoint representatives to four committees under the Governor's Office: the Justice, Treatment, Prevention, and Judiciary Committees (0 UC, 63-25a-204).


A territorial Attorney General and a United States District Attorney had concurrently served the same functions as the Attorney General prior to 1896. The position of Attorney General had been created for the territory in 1851 (Utah Laws 1851 Chapter 122, Section 32), but the functions of the position were abolished by the federal Poland Act of 1874, leaving only the United States District Attorney.

Since 1896, a number of organization divisions have been created within the office to deal with specific issues and agencies. The following is a list of identifiable divisions, span dates, and comments regarding name changes or further subdivisions in chronological order by creation date. Date spans are based on available organization charts, budget and audit reports, and telephone directory listings.

Prohibition Bureau, 1917-1933.

Highway Department, 1974-1980. Full-time attorneys had been assigned to the Highways as early as 1960, but the first appearance of Highways as a distinct division is on the 1974 organization chart. The name was changed from Highway to Transportation in 1977. In the 1980 organization chart, it is listed as the Trial and Transportation Division.

Law Enforcement, 1974-1976. The Law Enforcement Division appears on the 1974 organization chart, but is no longer listed by 1976.

Major Agencies, 1974-1980.

Consumer Protection, 1976. This division appears only on the 1976 audit report.

Higher Education, 1976-1980. This division first appears on the audit of the office in 1976. The name was changed to Education in 1977. An Education division was created again in 1989.

Justice, 1976. The Justice division appears only on the 1976 audit report.

Social Services, 1976-1980. This division is first listed on the 1976 audit report, but may have been created prior to that year.

Criminal Justice Division, 1977-present. This division changed names in 1981 to the Litigation Division.

State Law Division, 1977-1980.

Trial Counsel Division, 1977-1980.

Governmental Affairs Division, 1980-1993. This division does not appear on the May 1980 organization chart, but is listed in the 1982-1983 budget.

Human Resources Division, 1980-1995. In 1989 the name was changed to the Human Services Division. When dissolved in 1995, this division's funds were distributed among three new divisions: Child Protection, Child and Family Support, and Children's Justice.

Physical Resources, 1981-present. The Natural Resources division was split off of this division in 1989. In 1991 the name of Physical Resources was changed to Environment. In 1993, public utilities responsibilities were shifted to the new Public Affairs Division.

Tax and Business Regulation, 1981-present. The name of this division was changed to Tax and Revenue in 1987, and appears once as Tax and Business on the 1991 organization chart.

Child Support, 1982-1983. The only listing for this division is in the 1982-1983 budget.

Criminal Appeals Division, 1989-present. The name of this division was changed to Appellate in 1990, and appears as Appeals on the 1999 webpage.

Education Division, 1989-present. There was previously an Education (Higher Education) Division from 1976 to 1980.

Fair Business Enforcement, 1989-present. The name of this division was changed to Consumer Rights in 1993.

Natural Resources, 1989-present. This division was created from a program in the Physical Resources Division.

Criminal Enforcement Division, 1991-present. This section was created by taking some of the sections that were formerly in Litigation Division and adding the Prosecution Council. (The Prosecution Council is actually a separate agency but is housed with the Attorney General's office for expediency.) The name of this division was changed to Criminal Prosecution in 1993.

Public Affairs Division, 1993-present.

Child Protection Division, 1994-present.

Child Support Division, 1994-present. By 1995, the name of this division was Child and Family Support.

Children's Justice Division, 1994-present.

Children's Justice Centers, 1994-present.

As of 1999 the Attorney General's office consists of the following divisions: Appeals, Child and Family Support, Child Protection, Children's Justice, Children's Justice Centers, Consumer Rights, Criminal, Education, Environment, Litigation, Natural Resources, and Public Affairs Divisions, Tax and Revenue.


A. C. Bishop, 1896-1901

M. R. Breeden, 1901-1909

A. R. Barns, 1909-1917

Dan B. Shields, 1917-1921

Harvey H. Cluff, 1921-1929

George P. Parker, 1929-1933

Joseph Chez, 1933-1941

Grover A. Giles, 1941-1949

Clinton D. Vernon, 1949-1953

E. R. Callister, 1953-1959

Walter L. Budge, 1959-1961

A. Pratt Kesler, 1961-1965

Phil L. Hansen, 1965-1969

Vernon B. Romney, 1969-1977

Robert B. Hansen, 1977-1981

David L. Wilkinson, 1981-1989

Paul Van Dam, 1989-1993

Jan Graham, 1993-2001

Mark Shurtleff, 2001-present

COMPILED BY: Arlene Schmuland, May 1999. Although later-elected Attorney Generals may have been added to the list, all other comments regarding agency administration, function, and structure date to May 1999 when this report was written.


Administrative Rules, Utah Administrative Code, (Series 83623).

Attorney General, Annual reports, (Series 63).

Attorney General, Website. May 1999.

Auditor, State agency audit and budget reports, (Series 1664).

Legislature, Utah code unannotated, (Series 1052).

Statehood Constitutional Convention, State constitution, (Series 3214).

Page Last Updated December 15, 2009 .