A Manila lawyer has filed a federal court lawsuit claiming he was overlooked as the only qualified candidate by Daggett County Commission members when they appointed a county attorney in January 1987.
Wayne R.N. Searle filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Utah U.S. District Court claiming the county commissioners improperly re-appointed County Attorney Dennis Judd, who was not a county resident.Searle contends that at the time, he was the only licensed attorney in the county and had an interest in the post, but the County Commission ignored him in favor of Judd, who had already served two years in the position.
The lawsuit names County Commissioners LaRay Sandlier, Elbert Steinaker and Duane Lamb as defendants and includes Judd as a defendant, but stipulates that no damages will be sought from him.
While a Utah statute allows a non-resident to become county attorney, Searle claims that if there is a licensed attorney at the time the seat is vacant, his appointment is mandatory.
Searle's attorney, Brian Barnard, said Wednesday the statute allows for a non-resident to be appointed or elected to the position because so many of Utah's counties are sparsely populated.
But Searle's residency, his membership in good standing with the Utah State Bar and his desire for the position supersedes the statute, Barnard said.
Searle claims the County Commission deprived him of property and a state entitlement interest without due process of law in violation of the Fifth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit also says he was denied the approximately $3,000 per month salary paid the county attorney and was forced to file the lawsuit seeking to have Judd's appointment invalidated.
Searle seeks at least $36,000 in damages, which would have been paid him had he been appointed, court costs and attorney fees and the invalidation of Judd's appointment.
None of the commissioners, who were in a regular meeting together, could be reached by telephone for comment Wednesday.
Judd, who said he had not seen the lawsuit, said his current term expires in 1990.
"The county is of the position that the appointment was handled properly and within state statutes," Judd said.
He said Searle has filed his intention to place his name on the November ballot for the county attorney position. He said that if a person is appointed to a position, Utah law allows for a mid-term election for the post.
Judd said he will not place his name on the ballot.