Idaho owes a debt of gratitude to its longest-serving attorney general

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden will be stepping down at the end of the year, after providing 33 years of dedicated service in the AG’s office. I hired Lawrence in 1989 to perform legal work for the State Tax Commission. He worked his way up in the AG’s office until he was elected as Attorney General in 2002. His 20 years in that office makes him the longest-serving AG in Idaho history. Much more important than that, he was one of the very best–a man deeply committed to the rule of law.

An Attorney General must shun personal considerations and provide sound, even-handed legal advice and representation to state officials and agencies. The law requires no less. There is no leeway for favoring your friends or party when the law stands in the way. Lawrence characterized his work as honestly “calling the balls and strikes” and he routinely put the interests of the people above his own.

Lawrence stood strong in demanding that the US Department of Energy honor its contractual commitments to clean up nuclear waste at the Idaho National Laboratory, even as he supported the mission of the INL. After all, the contract was the DOE’s word and bond. Lawrence understood that he would take a great deal of heat for doing the right thing and he most certainly did, but he prevailed.

When the Legislature tried to give favorable treatment to users of state endowment lands, Lawrence stood by the constitutional requirement to obtain the “maximum long term financial return” from those lands. He successfully sued to overturn a statute that violated the Constitution, infuriating many legislators and land users. He knew that his political fortunes would suffer, but he valued the rule of law over political expediency.

When the Texas attorney general sought to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election with an action filed in the US Supreme Court on December 7, 2020, Lawrence declined to join the other Idaho officials who swarmed like lemmings to support that unconstitutional action. He understood the action was unsupported by any facts or law and was dangerous to our democracy. He also understood that by doing the right thing, he was subjecting himself to serious jeopardy in the next Republican primary election. As a measure of the man, Lawrence chose the constitutional course.

These are just a few examples of the dedicated service Lawrence Wasden performed for the people of Idaho. I did not always agree with the positions that Lawrence took on legal issues, but he always presented a sound legal argument for his position. You can respect a person who comes to a different conclusion on a debatable legal issue if they demonstrate their position has sound legal footing. We see too little of that in today’s poisonous political atmosphere, where politics too often trumps the law.

Perhaps no tribute to Attorney General Wasden could surpass the accolades heaped on him by Idaho’s six previous Attorneys General in a resolution I presented to the Conference of Western Attorneys General at its Sun Valley meeting on June 13, 2022:

“With our collective 32 years of service in the position, we can recognize an Attorney General who excels. Lawrence Wasden has courageously represented the State of Idaho and its people and will be remembered as one of our very best Attorneys General. Our sincere thanks and congratulations to Lawrence and his wife and partner Tracey for their dedicated service to the Gem State and best wishes for the future.”

Hear, hear, Lawrence!

Jim Jones

Jim Jones

Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served 8 years as Idaho Attorney General (1983-1991) and 12 years as Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court (2005-2017).

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