Rule 3-201. Court commissioners.
To define the role of court commissioner.
To establish a term of office for court commissioners.
To establish uniform administrative policies governing the qualifications, appointment, supervision, discipline and removal of court commissioners.
To establish uniform administrative policies governing the salaries, benefits and privileges of the office of court commissioner.
This rule shall apply to all trial courts of record.
Statement of the Rule:
(1) Definition. Court commissioners are quasi-judicial officers established by the Utah Code.
(A) Court commissioners must be at least 25 years of age, United States citizens, Utah residents for three years preceding appointment and residents of Utah while serving as commissioners. A court commissioner shall reside in a judicial district the commissioner serves.
(B) Court commissioners must be admitted to practice law in Utah and exhibit good character. Court commissioners must possess ability and experience in the areas of law in which the court commissioner serves.
(C) Court commissioners shall serve full time and shall comply with Utah Code Section 78A-2-221.
(3) Appointment - Oath of office.
(A) Selection of court commissioners shall be based solely upon consideration of fitness for office.
(B) When a vacancy occurs or is about to occur in the office of a court commissioner, the Council shall determine whether to fill the vacancy. The Council may determine that the court commissioner will serve more than one judicial district.
(C) A committee for the purpose of nominating candidates for the position of court commissioner shall consist of one judge from each court that the commissioner will serve, three lawyers, and two members of the public. Committee members shall be appointed by the presiding judge of the district court of each judicial district. The committee members shall serve three year terms, staggered so that not more than one term of a member of the bench, bar, or public expires during the same calendar year. The presiding judge shall designate a chair of the committee. All members of the committee shall reside in the judicial district. All members of the committee shall be voting members. A quorum of one-half the committee members is necessary for the committee to act. The committee shall act by the concurrence of a majority of the members voting. When voting upon the qualifications of a candidate, the committee shall follow the voting procedures of the judicial nominating commissions.
(D) If the commissioner will serve more than one judicial district, the presiding judges of the districts involved shall select representatives from each district's nominating committee to form a joint nominating committee with a size and composition equivalent to that of a district committee.
(E) No member of the committee may vote upon the qualifications of any candidate who is the spouse of that committee member or is related to that committee member within the third degree of relationship. No member of the committee may vote upon the qualifications of a candidate who is associated with that committee member in the practice of law. The committee member shall declare to the committee any other potential conflict of interest between that member and any candidate as soon as the member becomes aware of the potential conflict of interest. The committee shall determine whether the potential conflict of interest will preclude the member from voting upon the qualifications of any candidate. The committee shall record all declarations of potential conflicts of interest and the decision of the committee upon the issue.
(F) The administrative office of the courts shall advertise for qualified applicants and shall remove from consideration those applicants who do not meet minimum qualifications of age, citizenship, residency, and admission to the practice of law. The administrative office of the courts shall develop uniform guidelines for the application process for court commissioners.
(G) The nominating committee shall review the applications of qualified applicants and may investigate the qualifications of applicants to its satisfaction. The committee shall interview selected applicants and select the three best qualified candidates. The committee shall receive public comment on those candidates as provided in paragraph (4).
(H) When the public comment period has closed, the comments shall go to the nominating committee. If any comments would negatively affect the committee’s decision on whether to recommend a candidate, the candidate shall be given notice and an opportunity to respond to the comments. If the committee decides not to recommend a candidate based on the comments, the committee shall select another candidate from the interviewed applicants and again receive public comment on the candidates as provided in paragraph (4).
(I) The chair of the nominating committee shall present the names, applications, and the results of background investigations of the nominees to the judges of the courts the court commissioner will serve. The committee may indicate its order of preference.
(J) The judges of the courts the court commissioner will serve shall select one of the nominees by a concurrence of a majority of judges voting. The concurrence of each court independent of the others is necessary for selection.
(K) The presiding judge of the district court of the district the court commissioner will primarily serve shall present the name of the selected candidate to the Council. The selection shall be final upon the concurrence of two-thirds of the members of the Council. The Council shall vote upon the selection within 45 days of the selection or the concurrence of the Council shall be deemed granted.
(L) If the Council does not concur in the selection, the judges of the district may select another of the nominees or a new nominating process will be commenced.
(M) The appointment shall be effective upon the court commissioner taking and subscribing to the oath of office required by the Utah Constitution and taking any other steps necessary to qualify for office. The court commissioner shall qualify for office within 45 days after the concurrence by the Council.
(4) Public comment for appointment and retention.
(A) Final candidates for appointment and court commissioners who are up for retention shall be subject to public comment.
(B) For final candidates, the nominating committee shall be responsible for giving notice of the public comment period.
(C) For court commissioners, the district in which the commissioner serves shall be responsible for giving notice of the public comment period.
(D) The nominating committee or district in which the commissioner serves shall:
(i) email notice to each active member of the Utah State Bar including the names of the nominees or court commissioner with instructions on how to submit comments;
(ii) publish the names of the nominees or court commissioner with instructions on how to submit comments in a newspaper of general circulation; and
(iii) allow at least 10 days for public comment.
(E) Individuals who comment on the nominees or commissioners should be encouraged, but not required, to provide their names and contact information.
(F) The comments are classified as protected court records and shall not be made available to the public.
(5) Term of office. The court commissioner shall be appointed until December 31 of the third year following concurrence by the Council. At the conclusion of the first term of office and each subsequent term, the court commissioner shall be retained for a term of four years unless the judges of the courts the commissioner serves remove the commissioner in accordance with paragraph (6)(C). The term of office of court commissioners holding office on April 1, 2011 shall end December 31 of the year in which their term would have ended under the former rule.
(6) Performance evaluation and public comments.
(A) The presiding judge of the district shall prepare an evaluation of the commissioner's performance on an annual basis, on forms provided by the administrative office. The presiding judge shall provide copies of the evaluation to the Judicial Council. A copy of the performance plan and any subsequent evaluation shall be maintained in the official personnel file in the administrative office. Court commissioners shall comply with the program for judicial performance evaluation, including any recommendations made in the evaluation.
(B) When the public comment period has closed, the comments shall go to the presiding judge in the district in which the commissioner serves. If any comments would negatively affect the presiding judge’s decision on whether to discipline or remove the commissioner from office, the commissioner shall be given notice and an opportunity to respond to the comments.
(7) Removal and sanctions.
(A) If the commissioner's performance is not satisfactory, the presiding judge, with the concurrence of the judges of that jurisdiction, may discipline the commissioner or remove the commissioner from office. If the commissioner disagrees with the presiding judge's decision, the commissioner may request a review of the decision by the Management Committee of the Council.
(B) The court commissioner may be removed by the Council:
(i) as part of a reduction in force;
(ii) for failure to meet the evaluation and certification requirements; or
(iii) as the result of a formal complaint filed under CJA Rule 3-201.02 upon the concurrence of two-thirds of the Council.
(C) The court commissioner may be removed without cause by the judges of the courts the commissioner serves at the conclusion of a term of office. Removal under this paragraph shall be by the concurrence of a majority of all judges of the courts the commissioner serves. A decision to remove a commissioner under this paragraph shall be communicated to the commissioner within a reasonable time after the decision is made, and not less than 30 days prior to termination.
(D) The court commissioner may be sanctioned by the Council as the result of a formal complaint or by the presiding judge or judges of the courts the commissioner serves. Sanctions may include but are not limited to private or public censure, restrictions in case assignments, mandatory remedial education, suspension for a period not to exceed 60 days, and reduction in salary.
(8) Salaries and benefits.
(A) The Council shall annually establish the salary of court commissioners. In determining the salary of the court commissioners, the Council shall consider the effect of any salary increase for judges authorized by the Legislature and other relevant factors. Except as provided in paragraph (6), the salary of a commissioner shall not be reduced during the commissioner's tenure.
(B) Court commissioners shall receive annual leave of 20 days per calendar year and the same sick leave benefits as judges of the courts of record. Annual leave not used at the end of the calendar year shall not accrue to the following year. A commissioner hired part way through the year shall receive annual leave on a prorated basis. Court commissioners shall receive the same retirement benefits as non-judicial officers employed in the judicial branch.
(9) Support services.
(A) Court commissioners shall be provided with support personnel, equipment, and supplies necessary to carry out the duties of the office as determined by the presiding judge.
(B) Court commissioners are responsible for requesting necessary support services from the presiding judge.