Ammon Bundy’s new attorney, Morgan Philpot, is a busy guy.
Since 2000, he’s been a Republican member of the Utah Legislature, run unsuccessfully for Congress and Utah governor — and he’s currently campaigning for state senator.
“I’m a faithful Mormon & I love liberty,” Philpot wrote on campaign filing documents in March.
Philpot takes over for Eugene-based attorneys Mike Arnold and Lissa Casey.
Arnold said in text messages Thursday morning that the decision to drop the case was his, not Bundy’s.
“Our firm is out,” Arnold wrote.
Philpot didn’t return calls or emails Thursday.
Arnold said Philpot was born in Oregon, and is a member of both the Oregon and Utah bars.
Philpot’s record seems in line with the issues near and dear to Bundy and others occupiers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
In a 2011 interview conducted while he was running in the Republican primary for Utah Governor, Philpot spoke about the need for the state’s next leader to stand up for the U.S. Constitution and local control of public land.
“It’s time that we stepped up and actually took some significant measures to insure that land isn’t just permitted by the federal government for our use, but is actually put back into our control so that we determine the use as a state,” Philpot said.
Philpot said Utah needs an ability to develop its economy through its land.
“And that’s going to take aggressive set of policies … joining with counties, municipalities and trying to get certain lands back,” he said.
Philpot served as a member of the Utah House from 2000 to 2004. He attended the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Fla., where he graduated in May 2007 in the bottom half of his class with a GPA of 2.69, according to the school.
“He’s not somebody who’s known particularly as a defense attorney,” said Matthew Burbank, a professor of political science at the University of Utah. “My guess would be that what he’s primarily interested in doing is using this as kind of a way to make a stronger name for himself politically. Obviously, being involved with the Bundys is going to get you a lot of attention.”
Burbank said there is a risk to all that attention, though: Philpot will be getting involved in a trial he can’t control.