From priesthood to the courtroom: Meet S.J.Quinney College of Law student Rob Moriarty

After spending 20 years as a Catholic priest, Rob Moriarty was ready to take a different leap of faith.

The Kearns native was leading a congregation of nearly 2,500 parishioners at Saint Francis Xavier Church in 2013 when a simple reality hit: He needed a change. He’d been an ordained priest in the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City for two decades, spending time as a teacher at Catholic schools in Ogden, Draper and Kearns. He loved helping the community, but he longed for challenges that would provide a new kind of intellectual stimulation.

So he made a move that raised some eyebrows. Moriarty resigned from the priesthood and took a job at the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles processing vehicle license and registration information while he figured out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

“Quitting is underrated,” Moriarty said. “It’s a good idea sometimes. Obviously you can’t quit every year of your life. But if you’ve decided you’ll be happier pursuing a different direction in life, it is perhaps the wisest thing to do. In order to move forward in life, you need to take a few risks.”

Moriarty met his future wife a few months later. On his wedding day, Sept.21, 2013, friends pressed him about his next move now that he has a new family. “Why don’t you go to law school?” they asked.

Moriarty realized he was well-suited for the endeavor. He’d earned an advanced degree in Canon Law from Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C., in 1996. Moreover, after years of listening to people share problems in the confessional booth, he’d learned how to gather facts needed to recommend solutions.

Rob Moriarty

“People who don’t get the facts don’t make great decisions,” said Moriarty. “I learned how to listen to a person’s story and decide on a course of action based on that set of circumstances. You have to do that in any legal issue. If you don’t know the facts, you can’t apply the principles.”

Moriarty prepped for the LSAT and scored well enough to earn a scholarship to the S.J. Quinney College of Law, starting with the class of 2018. Moriarty, who is 50, initially worried about how he’d keep up with younger classmates, how he’d handle the grueling demands of studying and about returning to a campus far different from the one he’d set foot on as an undergrad studying biology and philosophy in 1984.

Moriarty not only kept up but excelled, scoring in the top 10 percent of his class and earning an internship at the University of Utah Office of the General Counsel this past summer. The experience researching legal issues related to higher education left Moriarty with hopes of pursuing a career in that area upon graduation.

First, Moriarty will continue through law school, where this year he is working on the Moriarty will Utah Law Review. His life today is a 180 from three years ago, but Moriarty is glad he took a chance on change.

“I love education. It has a higher purpose,” said Moriarty. “I learn something new every day.”