My father is Spanish and Filipino and was a nationally recognized artist and entertainer who came to the United States from the Philippines to start anew. He left an amazing career to come here. His uncle, Ramon Magsaysay, had been president of the country. My mom was born and raised in Hawaii, met my dad in LA, and began raising our family in a humble neighborhood there. Still, my parents would always tell me that we were so blessed to be in America, and that we should never take for granted the freedoms we enjoy.
It was still tough, though. Growing up, I worked doing everything from DJing at parties to modeling in the store windows of a local mall. All the money I earned went right back to the family. Education was always at the forefront within the family. Mom was a high school teacher and, later, a principal. I think I was grounded for getting an A- once. I got straight A’s in high school and college after that. But while money was tight, my parents measured richness by who they could help.
Once it was time to go to college, I was offered many scholarships with which I could have gone virtually anywhere in the country. I ultimately chose Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. After serving a Spanish-speaking mission to Chicago for the LDS [Latter-day Saints] Church, I returned to BYU. I wanted a career in teaching, but one of my English professors suggested I look into law. I believe his exact words were “I think you will regret it if you don’t take this opportunity.” So I did. I went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, finished my collegiate volleyball career there, and received a Juris Doctorate with honors in 1997.
Looking back, I can see that law has always inspired me. It takes me back to the days in the tough neighborhoods, where the bigger kids were there to defend the smaller kids. I’ve always been one to protect the underdog. I think my diverse background has also helped me in my practice. I am a quarter Hispanic, a quarter Polynesian, and half Asian. I grew up surrounded by diverse cultures in Hawaii and Los Angeles. It definitely has helped me represent people of all walks of life, and reminds me that there is no cookie-cutter approach to law. I spent over 13 years with Parsons Behle & Latimer, Utah’s largest firm. There, I litigated or tried some of the nation’s largest and most high-profile cases, including the Sir Alan Stanford multibillion-dollar international fraud case and the Yellowstone Club billion-dollar bankruptcy in Montana and, yet, some of my most gratifying cases were pro bono ones for refugees or others of limited means.
I have used my legal skills to serve on numerous boards, commissions, and appointments in both the public and private sector throughout my career, including the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Somos Education Foundation, which I helped establish. We’ve given over $1 million in scholarships to Latino students in the past six years alone. It is an important responsibility of being a lawyer—to serve— and that is the mentality I want to bring as Utah’s next attorney general. I was honored to be the Utah Young Lawyer of the Year and then the American Bar Association’s first-ever National Outstanding Young Lawyer in 2008. Later that year, I began to consider running for public office. I had only ever been involved at a grass-roots level. But, too often, successful business people get so focused on pursuing their career, they don’t heed the call to public service.
I turned  this year, and I am excited about everything in my life. I have an amazing wife and six brilliant children and I just finished serving on a US Congressional Commission regarding Latino issues, including the creation of a national museum with the Smithsonian. My venture partners and I have several small businesses that are flourishing. I’m extremely proud to represent a company such as eTAGZ, which has a wonderful business model and exciting opportunities ahead. I’m also quite excited to be involved in the race for Utah’s attorney general [office]. Our founding fathers heeded a call to leave their farms and businesses to serve the public … and I feel that call as well.