Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Utah Justice Court Reform Moves Forward in the Senate

Senator Hillyard's SB-72 clears committee

The Salt Lake Tribune reports this morning that Logan Senator Hillyard's Senate Bill 72, aimed at cleaning up the act of local justice courts, has cleared committee, and now is headed to the Senate floor for a vote. It's a short article, so we'll incorporate its text in full:
A bill aimed at giving justice court judges more independence from the cities and counties they serve unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.
SB72 first substitute, sponsored by Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, would:
* Create a nominating commission to review and recommend judge candidates for appointment.
* Increase terms from four to six years beginning in 2010, and set salaries between 50 and 90 percent of those of district court judges.
* Prohibit judges from working in law enforcement, or as prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys or correction or court authorities while on the bench and require them to have four-year degrees.
* Make all judges subject to retention elections.
Although yesterday's committee action is merely an initial first step, we'll chalk it up as an interim win in our two-year campaign to pry Utah justice courts loose from the grasp of some local Utah officials, who have treated justice courts within their political jurisdictions as instruments of citizen plunder, rather than institutions of justice, as originally intended under Utah law.

As our regular readers are aware, this remedial legislation has been a pet project of ours for almost as long as we've been blogging.

Notably, this bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee, not exactly a gaggle of pushovers in the law & order department. We believe the unanimous vote demonstrates the committee's recognition that justice court administration, policy and procedure desperately needs to be brought into alignment with the rest of the Utah court system; and we're therefore keeping our fingers crossed that the necessity for change will be equally obvious to lawmakers in both bodies of the Utah legislature.

It goes without saying that we'll be keeping a close eye on this bill, as it winds its way through the legislature.

Comments are invited, as always.


Bill C. said...

Well Rudi, I won't delve into the merrits of this legeslative piece, I just would point out what I think is a rather odd inconsistency inflicting your republican lawmaker from Logan.
Correct me if I'm off, but, this bill seems to get at stopping Citizen abuse by munincipalities, through their judges. If Hillyard is so concerned for citizens, why is he advising and aiding in the hi-jacking of 100 Ogden Valley residents for the purpose of allowing a developer to create a town to get around county ordinances?
I might point out that though this is playing out in Weber Co. now, if they succeed, through annexation they'll be doing the same to his beloved Cache Co. next.

RudiZink said...

I'm with you, Bill. So long as Senator Hillyard continues his paid employment with Powder Mountain, I believe he has a direct pecuniary conflict of interest with his Cache County consitiuents.

We highlighted the progress of his SB-72 merely in the context of the pet project we've been nursing over the past few years, and not as a blanket endosement of the good senator.

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