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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Retention for Utah Judges

By D. Chris Buttars
Utah Senator, District 10

I believe - as currently construed- that judicial retention races are worthless. Ask 100 random people on the street . . . . 98% or more will tell you they know nothing about the judges up for retention or even WHICH judges are up for retention. Many will be unaware of what a retention race is.

We do have checks and balances in place, but there again 98% plus of the random people on the street have no idea what they are. One is the Judicial Conduct Commission. It is a wonderful program, but I doubt that the average Utah voter knows the name of the commission, how to access it or even knows of its existence at all.

Because of these concerns, I opened a bill file, and I did so publicly (I didn’t hold it private) to see if someone had a great idea how to bring a more effective check or balance into the judicial retention process. The bill file was referred to key analysts and we begin the research process to create a first draft.

In a recent conversation, I mentioned my concerns to a member of the media. When pressed for an example I said something like, "Well, you could bring them back to the senate for a retention hearing." That's all it took for the media to begin its "Buttars Wants To Destroy the Separation-of-Powers" campaign. No doubt at this point you have seen it in every newspaper. It’s the only message they are reporting on this issue. It is interesting to note that the first draft of my bill has not even been issued.

Some good things have come out of the media frenzy. I have had a number of callers with judicial conduct horror stories - some with little merit, but others with great ideas on how we can enhance Judicial Retention Races.

I sit on the Judicial Confirmation Committee, and know firsthand that 98+ percent of our judges are the cream of the crop. Nevertheless, we may have some rogue judges that totally ignore the law in favor of creating their own. That is flat wrong.

Our entire system was developed to have effective checks and balances. The check on judges discussed above are retention races and the Judicial Conduct Commission. But, once again, we will find most of the public unaware of the conduct of individual judges up for retention races; nor are they aware of the excellent resource of the Judicial Conduct Commission to vent a complaint or concern.

I'm trying to work out a way to increase public awareness regarding retention elections, the infrequent but damaging rogue judge, and/or the Judicial Conduct Commission. My bill hasn't even be drafted yet. If someone out there has an ideas on how to make this work, I would love to hear from you. Please give me a call at (801) 561-0535.


Anonymous change required said...

Sen. Buttars,

Thank you for your clarification. I was about to think you had completely gone off your rocker :-)

Regarding your statement "Nevertheless, we may have some rogue judges that totally ignore the law in favor of creating their own. That is flat wrong."

Can you please cite an example or two (without mentioning names)? Were their decisions upheld or later reversed?

What types of abuses would warrant giving a judge "the death penalty"?

8/16/2006 3:26 PM  
Anonymous Utah Progressive said...

This is a terrible idea. The courts are the only avenue that Utah progressive humanists have to fight against the authoritarian, oppressive Republican theocracy.

8/16/2006 5:42 PM  
Blogger Reach Upward said...

It's a terrible idea to inform the public? Informing the public will give a judge the "death penalty"?

I've had concerns about the legislature trying to prevent information from getting to the public, and some people are worried when they want to get information to the public?

I'm all for doing whatever we can to give the voters sufficient information to make an informed and reasoned vote when it comes to judicial retention elections. Today there is no good source for that. Let's get it out there. What are you worried about?

8/17/2006 11:35 AM  
Anonymous change required said...

reach upward,

You are putting words in my mouth. I am asking Sen. Buttars what types of abuses warrant removing a judge from office. Who determines whether their decisions are honorable or worthy of them being branded a "rogue judge." Sen. Buttars said we may have judges that "totally ignore the law." Please show me a judge in this state who totally ignores the law. I have asked for examples and have received none.

I think these are completely reasonable questions, don't you?

H.L. Mencken said "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." Simply saying there may be judges who "totally ignore the law," in my opinion, is simplistic rhetoric designed to energize the emotions of a specific voter base.

8/17/2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger Oldenburg said...

Sen. Buttars, again you are sadly mistaken about the law and public policy. My hope is that hearings on your bill will educate you on the limited role and power of the judiciary and the role of what is called "common law." Please ask one of your collegues that has gone to law school about this. The Maj. Leader is one.

Also, just because a judge decides a case against your liking does not make it judicial activism or "making new law." Utah's judicial retention system is a model to the county, it would be a shame for ideologs like you to change it.

8/17/2006 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Reach Upward.

Why not do "whatever we can to give the voters sufficient information to make an informed and reasoned vote when it comes to judicial retention elections. Today there is no good source for that. Let's get it out there. What are you worried about?"

8/17/2006 7:17 PM  
Anonymous D. Chris Buttars said...

In response to the anonymous request, to cite some specific examples of judicial concern; I have had a life time policy of not addressing individuals, for any reason that do not identify themselves. In fact, this is the first time I have responded to an anonymous reply or request. If “change required” would like to contact me I would be happy to make an appointment and speak directly with him about his concern.
561-0535 Senator D. Chris Buttars.

8/18/2006 3:01 PM  
Blogger Jesse Harris said...

Jail4Judges has been around for a long time and has been pushing the kind of initiative you've been talking about. Perhaps you should work with them to get their initiative on the ballot.

8/21/2006 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Tom Grover said...

Senator Buttars was gracious enough to appear on our show tonight, For the People, on 610 KVNU. The entire interview can be heard at http://kvnuforthepeople.com/?p=19

A portion of the interview:

Tom Grover: What do you say to the argument that some people will make that the courts are really the way for those that are in the minority and would otherwise be oppressed by the will of the majority to ensure that their rights are protected?

Senator Buttars: I don’t understand that at all, why if somebody goes to a court…. give me an example, I don’t know of an example of where the minority is being jeopordized by legislative action.

Tom Grover: Like Brown vs. Board of Education.

Senator Buttars: Well I think Brown v. Board of Education is wrong to beging with

Ryan Yonk: What was wrong about it?

Senator Buttars: That’s a whole nuther subject.

Tom Grover: I’d love to hear this

Senator Buttars: One day you’ll call me again and we’ll take a half hour on that one.

8/21/2006 10:29 PM  

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