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Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez named as U.S. Marshal for Utah

The United States Senate has approved the nomination of Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez to serve as U.S. Marshal of Utah. The promotion essentially makes him sheriff of the state.

The Biden Administration nominated Justin Martinez for U.S. Marshal in October 2022, just a month before Martinez was reelected to another four-year term as county sheriff. He has served in the sheriff’s office since 2015 and spent 10 years as a captain before running for elected office.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Martinez as U.S. Marshal by a voice vote. Both U.S. Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, who are Republican, supported Martinez’s nomination, even though he’s a Democrat.

Martinez will officially serve as sheriff until he announces his resignation, which he said he expects he’ll do shortly.

“After it gets confirmed by the United States Senate, the whole body, my name goes back to the President for signature,” Martinez said. “I do know that my name doesn't go to the President for signature until I have officially resigned. So, I don't know what that timeline looks like. It could be as early as this Friday, but I'm going to make an assumption that's going to be sometime next week, maybe Tuesday, Wednesday, somewhere in there, when I will make an official resignation. Then my packet can be sent out to the President for signature.”

Upon resigning, the Summit County Council will inform the chairman of the county Democratic party which will be responsible for putting forth names for consideration to fill the job for the next 1.5 years.

By state statute, Chief Deputy Frank Smith will assume the role of sheriff as soon as Martinez resigns.

“Then everything gets sent over to the party chair to open it up for those that would be interested in assuming an appointed position by the council,” Martinez said. “And then that person will maintain that position for the remainder of this year and next year. But there will be a midterm election for this seat next year to fill the remaining two years of this term.”

As U.S. Marshal, Martinez will serve for a four-year term and could be renominated after that.

“I think as long as you're doing a good job, there's really no need to move marshals around it's not really a political position,” he said. “Marshals are typically, once they get into the role, as long as they are fulfilling the needs of the state, show that they're a good federal partner, usually they're left alone. However, that's not that that is not a guarantee because I am appointed. I'm at will a president. So, if there's a change in President, new president could come in and immediately basically fire me for my position.”

At 53, Martinez said he is hopeful this will be the job with which he ends his law enforcement career.

“Whatever time that I get to serve in this role, it'll be very humbling and very honored to have served,” Martinez said. “And then see where, where my life takes me after that. But I'm hoping to make this my last and final career from around eight to 10 years would be wonderful.”

Martinez succeeds Matthew Harris who resigned as U.S. Marshal for Utah in 2022. As Marshal, Martinez will be responsible for overseeing all federal courts and judges as well as a jail population of more than 600 federal prisoners.