Utah Supreme Court

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Utah Supreme Court
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Court information
Justices:   5
Founded:   1894
Salary
Chief:  $150,000
Associates:  $148,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Assisted appointment
Term:   10 years
Active justices

Christine Durham  •  Matthew Durrant  •  Jill Parrish  •  Deno Himonas  •  Thomas Rex Lee  •  

Seal of Utah.png

The Utah Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Utah. It was established in 1894 when Utah became a state, partly growing out of an earlier territorial supreme court that was established by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1850. The court is composed of five members -- a chief justice, an associate chief justice and three justices -- who serve renewable ten-year terms.[1]

Justices

The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Justice Christine Durham1982-1/5/2025Gov. Scott Matheson
Chief justice Matthew Durrant2000-1/5/2025Mike Leavitt
Justice Jill Parrish2003-2016Mike Leavitt
Associate justice Deno Himonas2015-2018Gov. Gary Herbert
Associate chief justice Thomas Rex Lee2010-1/5/2025Gov. Gary R. Herbert


Chief justice

The justices themselves vote for the chief justice and associate chief justice positions. The term of a chief justice is four years and the term of an associate chief justice is two years. Since Utah achieved statehood, there have been 39 chief justices of the court. The first was Charles S. Zane, who served in this position on the court from 1896 to 1899, having previously been a chief justice of the preceding territorial supreme court.[1]

Jurisdiction

The Utah Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over matters of state law that were certified from federal courts, and can also issue extraordinary writs. The court has appellate jurisdiction for cases of first degree and capital felony convictions from the district court. Appellate jurisdiction also extends to civil judgements besides domestic cases. The court reviews the administrative proceedings of the Public Service Commission, the Tax Commission, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Board of Trustees, the Board of Oil, Gas, and Mining, and the State Engineer. Additionally, the supreme court also has jurisdiction over the rulings of the Utah Court of Appeals by writ of certiorari and both constitutional and election questions. The court makes final rulings of interpretation of the Utah Constitution, as well as adopting rules for civil and criminal procedure and rules of evidence for use in the state courts. The court has administrative power over the Judicial Conduct Commission and the practice of law in the state, including admission, conduct, and discipline of attorneys.[1]

Judicial selection

Justices of the court are chosen using a gubernatorial commission process. The Utah appellate judicial nominating commission has eight members. Seven of the members are appointed by the governor. The eighth member of the commission is the state's chief justice or someone chosen by the chief justice. This member of the commission is a non-voting member. The appellate court nominating commission screens applicants for any vacancies that occur on the court. It is then required to submit a list of names with between five and seven nominees to the governor. The governor is required to appoint a nominee from the list to fill the vacancy within thirty days. If the governor fails to do so, the court's chief justice makes an appointment from the list. The Utah senate must then confirm or reject the appointment within sixty days.[2]Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

Qualifications

To be considered a qualified candidate, a person must be a citizen of the United States and have been a resident of the state of Utah for no less than five years. Additionally, the candidate must be at least 30 years of age, and must be admitted to practice law in the state.[2]

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Utah was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Utah received a score of 0.45. Based on the justices selected, Utah was the 10th most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[3]

Removal of justices

Caseloads

Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 526 232
2013 595 660
2012 600 676
2011 619 660
2010 620 662
2009 593 679
2008 569 640
2007 564 630

[4]

Ethics

Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Utah earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[5]

History of the court

Before statehood, Utah was a territory known as the State of Deseret. Article IV of the Constitution of Deseret provided for a three member Supreme Court, with each member being elected to a term of four years by the General Assembly of the State of Deseret.[6] In 1850, Utah was admitted to the Union and the state's constitution provided for a supreme court with original jurisdiction over writs of mandamus, certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto, and habeas corpus. In all other cases, the court had appellate jurisdiction; it was not a trial court. The court continued to consist of three justices, but they were elected to serve staggered terms of six years each. According to the constitution, after 1905, the court could be expanded to include four justices. The clerk of the supreme court also served as the librarian of the state law library. The court was to hold a minimum of three sessions each year, and the clerk had the power to adjourn the court if all the justices were absent.[6]

Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City

Notable firsts

  • Appointed in 1982, Christine M. Durham was the first female justice to be appointed to the Utah Supreme Court. She was also the longest serving chief justice and served in that position for exactly ten years. She stepped down as chief justice in 2012 but continues to serve as a justice on the court.[7]

See also

External links

References


2014

Retention
JudgeElection Vote
LeeThomas Rex Lee 75.5% ApprovedA
DurrantMatthew Durrant 77.6% ApprovedA
DurhamChristine Durham 77.8% ApprovedA