Jann Farris is the County Attorney for Morgan County. His current term ends this year, and he is running for his second term as Morgan County Attorney. Attorney Al Lundgren, who is currently serving on the Morgan County Council, is running against him.
Farris has an interesting background and career. He grew up in a small town of Jerome, Idaho. He loved the rural environment in which he grew up and speaks with pride about hauling hay full time. His father had dairy cattle, and he also enjoyed the time he spent helping his father milking. He sees himself as a “cowboy with a law degree.”
Farris left Idaho for the first time when he served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Toronto. It was there that he met his wife who was also serving a mission in the area. They married not long after they both returned home.
Farris has had a love for law enforcement from early on in life. He decided to attend and study criminal justice at Rick’s College. There, he earned an Associate in Criminal Justice degree. Then, he attended Weber State University where he added his Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice with a Dual-Major in Criminal Justice and Psychology.
When Farris graduated from WSU, he went right to work on the Salt Lake Police Force. Farris loved the time he spent doing police work, particularly the times he was able to help the youth. However, he found that he had to work many jobs to make ends meet.
These additional jobs meant that he was not able to spend the time with his family. As he considered the future, he saw that if he continued on, he would not have the time he wanted, and felt he should, to spend with his kids. He wanted to be able to help them with homework, coach them in sports, or just spent time with them.
Farris determined that he would continue with law enforcement, but in a different way. That’s when he entered the University of Idaho Law Program. After two and a half years, he graduated and he and his wife decided they wanted to settle in Utah.
He passed the bar and went to work for a law firm in Utah that specialized in bankruptcy. After about two years, he opened his own law office where he handled cases relating to criminal defense, bankruptcy, and contracts.
As Farris’ children grew, he wanted a similar rural experience to his for them. He wanted them to develop the work ethic that farm work and small farming communities can build.
With this in mind he relocated to Morgan in 2002. He continued to practice law in Ogden. He also served part-time with the Morgan Sheriff’s Department to maintain his law enforcement status.
In 2006, the Morgan County Attorney was Kelly Wright. Wright was up for election that year and Farris decided to run against him. Farris saw the opportunity to pursue his chosen career while serving the community that he had come to love.
Just before the filing deadline, Wright accepted another job and resigned as Morgan County Attorney. Farris was appointed to the county attorney position and then was unopposed in the election that fall. He is now serving the last year of his first full four-year term as county attorney.
The role of county attorney has many facets. The country attorney is the prosecuting attorney for crimes committed in the county. The position also acts as in-house counsel for the county, advising the council and other departments on legal matters, drafting and reviewing contracts, and pursuing debts owed to the county when legal action is necessary.
Farris jokes that, “Most people think that I am the county’s [citizen’s] attorney…a 1-800 number for free legal advice.” Farris gets many calls from county residents. He tries to help them where he can, within the limitations of his role. He loves to interact with the public, particularly when he is helping citizens to identify and avoid financial scams.
A significant portion of Farris’ time is spent prosecuting criminal cases. There are three courts in Morgan County. The District Court, where felonies and high misdemeanors are prosecuted, Juvenile Court, where the court works to head off youths moving in the wrong direction, and Justice Court, where traffic violations and less serious misdemeanors are prosecuted.
Farris acts as the prosecuting attorney for cases in District and Juvenile Court, and the county uses outside counsel for Justice Court. Many residents of the community appear in Justice Court, making it likely that Farris would come across residents with whom he is acquainted. He does not act as the prosecuting attorney in Justice Court to avoid conflicts of interest. Using an attorney outside of the county for these cases eliminates this problem.
There are plenty of cases to keep Farris busy in the other two courts. Both District Court and Juvenile Court meet twice per month. Farris normally has around thirty prosecution cases in each court when it is in session.
Many of these cases are drug related. Most of the District Court cases are not with county residents, but rather, are individuals who are travelling through the county, or come from outside the county. In one case, the police apprehended and Farris later prosecuted individuals who were travelling through the county and had a working meth lab in their trunk. When asked about the major crimes in the county, Farris said, “We have a lot of drug related stuff, a lot of marijuana, a lot of methamphetamine.”
In his job as county attorney, Farris has had to learn about many different areas of law. Most attorneys specialize in one area or another. The nature of the county attorney position requires that one has knowledge in many areas of law, from land and water use, building codes and requirements, to criminal law, and civil law.
Farris identifies the major issues facing the county as development and drugs. He said, “Every one of the candidates has said that the big deal is development. It hasn’t been as of recent…just because developers don’t have any money. It probably will be again in the future. It takes up an inordinate amount of my time…because developers, a lot of time, don’t keep their promises.”
He continued, “On the criminal side, I would say that the biggest issue is the drug problem. It is actually not a drug problem at the high school. It is a drug problem with the youth…there is a fair amount of [the] youth that are astray, and there is quite a drug problem. As far as I am concerned that’s my biggest worry…making sure we catch those as early as we can and change behavior as soon as we can.”
Farris has a keen interest in the youth. He was one of the individuals involved in helping to organize Morgan Empowered. Farris is also currently being considered by the governor's office for a judge position in juvenile court.
Farris believes that experience with law enforcement is essential to the position of county attorney. He believes that his history in law enforcement as a police officer, his education in criminal justice, and his many years of living in a small rural community are key assets to helping him be successful.
He believes that his time over the last four years has given him a breadth of experience and knowledge on the county’s different legal issues for which the county attorney is responsible to take action. Farris hopes that voters will keep him in office this fall as they recognize the good things happening in the county, his work as county attorney, and his commitment to doing the right thing for Morgan