An Overview of the Utah Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the "court of last resort" in Utah. The court consists of five justices who serve ten-year renewable terms. The justices elect a chief justice by majority vote to serve for four years, and an associate chief justice to serve for two years. Learn more about the current members of the Utah Supreme Court in the Gallery of Judges.

The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to answer questions of state law certified from Federal Courts and to issue extraordinary writs. The Court has appellate jurisdiction to hear first degree and capital felony convictions from the District Court and civil judgments other than domestic cases. It also reviews formal administrative proceedings of the Public Service Commission, Tax Commission, School and Institutional Trust Lands Board of Trustees, Board of Oil, Gas, and Mining, and the State Engineer. The Supreme Court also has jurisdiction over judgments of the Court of Appeals by writ of certiorari, proceedings of the Judicial Conduct Commission, and both constitutional and election questions.

The Supreme Court conducts sessions regularly at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City, but the Court may sit in other locations occasionally. The Court generally sits the first and third Mondays of each month to decide procedural and substantive matters presented on a law and motion calendar. Following presentation of oral arguments by attorneys, the justices hold a conference and vote to either grant or deny the motions. Three of the five justices sit on the law and motion panel, allowing two justices to devote more time to writing opinions.

In the first week of every month, the Court schedules oral arguments. After attorneys argue their cases before the Court, the justices hold a conference, and one justice is assigned to write an opinion. Writing assignments are rotated to distribute the caseload as equally as possible. The justices may also elect to write separate concurring or dissenting opinions.

The justices are assisted by law clerks, staff attorneys, a Clerk of the Court, and a staff of legal secretaries and front office clerks. Law clerks are recent law school graduates who do legal research on issues before the court. The staff attorneys screen the cases to be heard by the court and the Clerk of Court is responsible for processing legal matters filed with the court.

The Supreme Court also adopts rules of civil and criminal procedure and rules of evidence for use in the state courts and manages the appellate process. The Court also governs the practice of law, including admission to practice law and the conduct and discipline of lawyers.