Saturday, December 13, 2014
Court Reform: Changes to Utah's Commissioner System
Over the past couple of years, I have proposed some significant reforms in how Utah's courts are structured. However, due to the complexity of the problem and a lack of political will from the Senate, these all-encompassing changes failed to gain traction.
So, this last Spring, I was invited by the Administrator of the Courts to participate in a work group studying how Commissioners operate in our District Courts. One of the problems we recognized in my earlier broad proposal was that Commissioners are given the power of judges, but they are not subject to the same public scrutiny and vetting that judges receive.
Fortunately, our work group this past interim recognized that and has made proposed changes to how Commissioners are nominated and retained. Among other recommendations, we endorsed a public comment period that will be open for Commissioners who are tapped to be hired or upon renewal of a term. These comments will be delivered to the presiding judge who will sift through them as the nomination/retention process moves forward.
This is a significant policy change. Hopefully, our work group's efforts will make a difference in how the public relates to its courts and help foster faith and confidence in how justice is administered in our state.
Here is a copy of our report and recommendations for your review. These were presented to the Judicial Council on November 24th and fully approved for implementation.