Author: Utah Courts

RON GORDON ANNOUNCED AS NEW STATE COURT ADMINISTRATOR

Salt Lake City, UT— Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant announced today that Ron Gordon has been appointed as the new State Court Administrator for the Utah Judiciary, effective June 1, 2021.

“Mr. Gordon has been a proven asset and reliable legal leader for Utah. His wealth of knowledge and experience in the legal field and justice system will make him an ideal administrator for the courts,” said Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant.

Beginning in 2017, Gordon served as General Counsel for Governor Gary R. Herbert. He continued in that role under Governor Spencer J. Cox. He has also served as Executive Director of the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice from 2009 – 2017, and Director of the Utah Sentencing Commission from 2002 – 2005. He also served as coordinator for the Salt Lake County Justice Advisory Council.

Gordon received his Juris Doctor from the University of Utah College of Law in 1998, and bachelor’s degree in 1995.

“I am grateful to the Utah Supreme Court and the Judicial Council for this extraordinary opportunity,” Gordon said. “There is no better judicial system in the world, and I am honored to join the wonderful people in the Utah Judiciary.”

Gordon will replace Hon. Mary T. Noonan, who has served as State Court Administrator since December, 2018.

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LESS THAN A YEAR LATER UTAH’S REGULATORY REFORM IS MAKING POSITIVE CHANGE

Salt Lake City, UT—April, 2021 will mark the first year since the Utah Supreme Court’s passing of Utah’s legal regulatory “sandbox” reform, and it is already starting to reshape Utah’s legal landscape.

The Office of Legal Services Innovation provides a safe environment where nontraditional legal service providers can innovate. One of the first providers approved under the new office is Rocket Lawyer, which offers à la carte legal services at a competitive price.

“Rocket Lawyer has been instrumental in helping me navigate legal documents and other legal issues that come up,” said Jill Parkinson, an independent contractor who engaged Rocket Lawyer for a document review. “I sleep better at night knowing my contracts are sound.”

Another small business owner said being able to access legal help on demand is a great asset. “Knowing there is a team at Rocket Lawyer skilled in areas I’m not familiar with to help me with whatever might come up is invaluable so that I can focus on building my business.”

To date, the Office of Legal Services has approved 20 pilot proposals, which offer a wide variety of legal services, including online legal document preparation and criminal expungement assistance, just to name a couple.

Even pro-bono nonprofit legal organizations are able to propose new and creative ways to help those in desperate need of legal help.

The Timpanogos Legal Center provides free legal assistance to thousands of self-represented clients. The center submitted an application to the sandbox and was recently approved for a pilot that will allow domestic violence victim advocates to provide legal advice in helping victims fill out court forms for protective orders and stalking injunctions, and prepare victims for court.

“It is a thrilling opportunity to be in the first wave of programs that will open doors for Utahns in need to receive legal assistance,” said Susan Griffith, Executive Director of Timpanogos Legal Center. “I encourage other non-profits to study and strategize ways to use the opportunities created through the Regulatory Sandbox to benefit their communities.”

Utah’s legal regulatory sandbox has caught the attention of legal industries all over the world. Recently the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), based out of the University of Denver, announced that Utah Supreme Court Justice Deno Himonas, and Utah attorney John Lund are the 2021 recipient of its Rebuilding Justice Award for co-chairing the work group which led to the founding of the Office of Legal Services Innovation. The award recognizes innovation and leadership that helps to build a legal system that is accessible, fair, reliable, efficient, and accountable. Its first award recipient was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“Justice Himonas and Mr. Lund have worked tirelessly to promote access to justice,” said Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant. “They are both deeply committed to finding innovative ways to get more legal services to more people. They are extraordinary leaders whose passion is contagious, and I’m deeply grateful for their dedication to this cause.”

“I’m really honored to have been named a co-recipient of the Rebuilding Justice Award along with John Lund, my colleague on this adventure,” said Justice Himonas. “But in truth and fairness, the award is shared with my colleagues on the Utah Supreme Court, who have been working so hard at improving access to justice for all Utahns, and to all of the members of the regulatory reform work group, implementation task force, and Office of Legal Services Innovation.”

“It is very humbling to be receiving this award along with Justice Himonas, especially in light of the list of incredible justice leaders who have been honored in prior years,” said John Lund. “Rebuilding justice is exactly what Utah’s sandbox is all about. The real reward has been seeing innovators come forward and construct new ways to deliver affordable and accessible legal services to those who so desperately need them.”

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DIRECTOR APPOINTED FOR NEW OFFICE OF FAIRNESS AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Salt Lake City, UT— Following a nationwide search, Jonathan Puente has been appointed as director of the new Office of Fairness and Accountability.
“We are delighted that Jon Puente has joined the Administrative Office of the Courts. Jon’s unique combination of professional experience and personal passion to eradicate bias and racism makes him a perfect fit to lead the Office of Fairness and Accountability,” said State Court Administrator, Judge Mary T. Noonan.
Puente is a native of Chicago, IL. He received his Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and his B.A. from Brigham Young University.
For the last 10 years Puente worked on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, policy development and implementation, and strategic planning and community outreach. His experience includes serving as Executive Director of Access and Inclusion for Southern Utah University, and Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Oregon State Bar. He also chaired several strategic planning committees to prepare and present workshops to organizations about embedding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion principles.
During the last four years, his focus has been on diversifying the legal profession, the bench, and increasing access to justice to marginalized communities. He follows his beloved Chicago Cubs and is the, “world’s coolest uncle.”
The Courts’ Office of Fairness and Accountability was established last July by the Utah Judicial Council as part of the Council’s ongoing commitment to identify and eradicate racism and bias from the Courts. The Office was created to organize and lead the Utah courts in examining and addressing racism and other forms of bias within the system. Puente will work collaboratively both within the courts, and with individuals and entities outside the system, including the Executive and Legislative branches of government. Puente and the office will focus on outreach to marginalized communities; data collection and research; and judge and employee education.

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UTAH COURTS WARNS PUBLIC OF RECENT JURY DUTY SCAM ACTIVITY

Salt Lake City, UT— Utah Courts has received recent reports from local law enforcement of citizens receiving phone calls from someone posing as law enforcement and threatening contempt of court for failure to report for jury duty.
Reports state the caller has access to personal information of victims, such as address and recent house moving. The fake officer claims there is a warrant out for the person’s arrest for failing to appear for jury duty, and demands the victim pay a fine over the phone. Sometimes, scammers will demand fines be paid using pre-paid cards, wire transfer, or ask that you deliver cash or gift cards to a physical location.
The courts would like the public to know that jury service communication is typically done by mail. If we do call, we will never ask for fine payment over the phone. We will never have law enforcement contact you about a failure to appear for jury duty, and never threaten over the phone with arrest or jail time.
While most of the state is not currently holding jury trials during the pandemic, you may still receive a jury questionnaire in the mail. We ask the public to still fill out the forms and return them so the courts can be ready to hold a jury trial when it is safe.
If you believe a scammer has contacted you, hang up and contact your local law enforcement agency.
For more information, visit: https://www.utcourts.gov/juryroom/juryscam.html

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JUDGES TO DETERMINE NEED FOR GRAND JURY

Salt Lake City, Utah— A panel of judges is scheduled to meet on Jan. 14, 2021, to hear testimony to determine whether good cause exists to call a grand jury. The meeting will take place at the Matheson Courthouse, located at 450 S. State St., Salt Lake City, Utah 84111.
Those wanting to testify before the panel of judges should contact Michael C. Drechsel, Assistant State Court Administrator, Administrative Office of the Courts, at (801) 578-3821 by Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, at noon, to schedule an appointment and receive further specific instructions. If no appointments are scheduled by that time, the meeting will be canceled without further notice.
Due to the continuing significant public health concerns regarding COVID-19, and consistent with the directives of state officials, the members of the panel of judges may appear at the meeting remotely using video conferencing software. Those wishing to testify will appear for individual appointments either:
• at the courthouse, where a single panel staff member will be present to operate the video conferencing software and facilitate the individual’s testimony to the panel of judges; or
• from a location of the individual’s choosing using remote video conferencing software, the details of which will be communicated to the individual by panel staff.
As pandemic conditions continue to evolve, all hearings that are scheduled may be canceled up to the last minute to ensure compliance with any public health directive.
Utah’s grand jury statute requires a panel of judges selected from throughout the state to hold a hearing in each judicial district every three years. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether a grand jury should be summoned based upon evidence of criminal activity. The panel of judges will hear, in secret, individuals claiming information that justifies calling a grand jury. An individual who testifies must be prepared to provide evidence to support a claim that justifies calling a grand jury. The Attorney General, a county attorney, district attorney, or special prosecutor appointed under U.C.A. section 77-10a-1 can also present evidence of criminal activity. Controversies between individual parties, civil matters, and matter that are subject to criminal appeal will not be considered. Any individual who appears before the panel of judges will be placed under oath. Individuals who need special accommodation during the hearing must notify Mr. Drechsel at least three business days prior to the hearing.
The current members of the grand jury panel of judges are: Supervising Judge W. Brent West, 2nd District Court; Judge Lynn W. Davis, 4th District Court; Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills, 3rd District Court; Judge Eric A. Ludlow, 5th District Court; and Judge Kara Pettit, 3rd District Court. Additional information regarding the grand jury panel of judges is available at the Utah Court’s website or in the Utah Code.

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THE COURTS MOURN THE PASSING OF JUDGE JERALD L. JENSEN

Salt Lake City, Utah—The Utah Judiciary is mourning the passing of Justice Court Judge Jerald L. Jensen.
Judge Jensen served the justice courts in Davis County, Centerville, and Sunset since being appointed in 1991. He retired from Sunset Justice Court in 2016 and Davis County Justice Court in 2015. During his tenure, he led several reforms to Utah’s justice courts. In 2011, Judge Jensen was the first justice court judge to consistently record hearings and sought funds to ensure transparency and judicial accountability on all levels. At the time he was quoted as saying, “Instead of doing it just between us, it’s a public hearing… making sure everyone has access.”
He served as a member of the Utah Judicial Council from 1991 through 1997, and again from 1999 through 2006. He also served for 19 years on the Board of Justice Court Judges, including two terms as its chair. His peers recognized his contributions by honoring him the Justice Court Judge of the Year and Quality of Justice awards.
“Judge Jensen was involved in the early shaping of the justice courts and was actively involved in trying to make it better for all parties involved,” said Second District Justice Court Presiding Judge Trent Nelson. “He spent many years serving the citizens of Davis County and took pride in his efforts to promote justice. He always had time to answer questions and made sure that he was well-versed in the law.”
Judge John Sandberg, a retired colleague of Judge Jensen, said, “I am grateful for a giant of a man that I had the privilege to know for about 40 years. Today I found that a dear friend, Jerry Jensen, passed this week. I am grateful for what he taught me about integrity and doing the correct thing for the right reason. Although Jerry tried to hide his heart, he cared for the wellbeing of others and diligently tried to benefit those around him. I am glad that I shared many days with Jerry and that I will be able to see him again.”
“His sense of humor and his heart matched his height,” said colleague Judge Catherine Hoskins.
During his time on the bench he also worked for the Union Pacific Railroad. Judge Jensen loved to perform weddings and would schedule weddings up and down the Wasatch Front to coincide with railroad stops. He was always busy, even working during his breaks.
Our condolences go out to Judge Jensen’s family.

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MILLARD COUNTY JUSTICE COURT VACANCY DEADLINE EXTENDED

Millard, UT—The deadline for applications for a Justice Court judge position in Millard County has been extended. The position will replace Judge Debra Haveron who will be retiring April 1, 2021.

To be considered for a justice court judgeship in Millard County, candidates must be at least 25 years of age, a citizen of the United States, a Utah resident for at least three years, and have earned a high school diploma or GED. In addition, candidates must be a resident of Millard County or an adjacent county for at least six months immediately preceding appointment.

Information on judicial retention and performance evaluation is posted on the Utah State Court’s website at www.utcourts.gov under employment opportunities. An application for judicial office form must be completed and is available on the court’s website (www.utcourts.gov/admin/jobs). The salary range for the position is $24,716 to $44,487 per year and does not include benefits. For additional information, contact Bonnie Smith at (435) 743-5227.

The deadline for applications is Monday, Nov. 23, 2020 at 5 p.m. and should be sent to the attention of Amy Hernandez, Administrative Office of the Courts, P.O. Box 140241, Salt Lake City, UT, 84114-0241. For an application or information, email amymh@utcourts.gov.

Utah law requires the Judicial Nominating Commission to submit three to five nominees to the Millard County Commission within 45 days of its first meeting. The Millard County Commission then has 30 days in which to make a selection. The selection must then be certified by the Utah Judicial Council.

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TAYLORSVILLE CITY JUSTICE COURT VACANCY ANNOUNCED

Taylorsville, Utah—Applications are being accepted for a justice court judge position in the City of Taylorsville. The position will replace Judge Michael Kwan who passed away in July.

To be considered for a justice court judgeship in Salt Lake County, candidates must be at least 25 years of age, a citizen of the United States, a Utah resident for at least three years, and have a degree from a law school that would make one eligible to apply for admission to a bar in any state in the United States. In addition, candidates must be a resident of Salt Lake County or an adjacent county for at least six months immediately preceding appointment.

Information on judicial retention and performance evaluation is posted on the Utah State Court’s website at www.utcourts.gov under employment opportunities. An application for judicial office form must be completed and is available on the court’s website (www.utcourts.gov/admin/jobs). The salary range for the position is $85,225 to $153,405 per year and includes benefits. For additional information, contact City Administrator John Taylor at jtaylor@taylorsvilleut.gov or (801) 955-2003.

The deadline for applications is Monday, Nov. 9, 2020 at 5 p.m. and should be sent to the attention of Amy Hernandez, Administrative Office of the Courts, P.O. Box 140241, Salt Lake City, UT, 84114-0241. For an application or information, email amymh@utcourts.gov.

Utah law requires the Judicial Nominating Commission to submit three to five nominees to the Taylorsville City Mayor, Kristie S. Overson, within 45 days of its first meeting. Mayor Overson then has 30 days in which to make a selection. The selection must then be certified by the Utah Judicial Council.

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MILLARD COUNTY JUSTICE COURT VACANCY ANNOUNCED

Millard, UT—Applications are being accepted for a justice court judge position in Millard County. The position will replace Judge Debra Haveron who will be retiring April 1, 2021.

To be considered for a justice court judgeship in Millard County, candidates must be at least 25 years of age, a citizen of the United States, a Utah resident for at least three years, and have earned a high school diploma or GED. In addition, candidates must be a resident of Millard County or an adjacent county for at least six months immediately preceding appointment.

Information on judicial retention and performance evaluation is posted on the Utah State Court’s website at www.utcourts.gov under employment opportunities. An application for judicial office form must be completed and is available on the court’s website (www.utcourts.gov/admin/jobs). The salary range for the position is $24,716 to $44,487 per year and does not include benefits. For additional information, contact Bonnie Smith at (435) 743-5227.

The deadline for applications is Monday, Oct. 26, 2020 at 5 p.m. and should be sent to the attention of Amy Hernandez, Administrative Office of the Courts, P.O. Box 140241, Salt Lake City, UT, 84114-0241. For an application or information, email amymh@utcourts.gov.

Utah law requires the Judicial Nominating Commission to submit three to five nominees to the Millard County Commission within 45 days of its first meeting. The Millard County Commission then has 30 days in which to make a selection. The selection must then be certified by the Utah Judicial Council.

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CHIEF JUSTICE ISSUES UPDATED PANDEMIC ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER

Salt Lake City, UT— Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant has issued an updated Administrative Order. The order offers further direction on warrants, bench trials, and eviction cases during the pandemic.

The Utah Courts remain open and available to the public while balancing the health and safety of court patrons, court staff, and judges. Toward that goal, the Utah Judicial Council has established three levels of court operations (Red, Yellow, Green), based on safety recommendations established by the Centers for Disease Control and the Utah Department of Health. While most hearings are being conducted remotely, some are now in-person, depending on a court’s risk level. Since March, courts have conducted over 140,000 remote proceedings on more than 63,000 District Court cases. Courts approved for in-person hearings and jury trials under the Yellow Phase currently include those in: Box Elder, Rich, Davis, Juab, Millard, Beaver, Iron, Piute, Sevier, Emery, Daggett, and Uintah. Courts in Salt Lake, Summit, Utah, Washington, Garfield, Kane, Sanpete, Wayne, Carbon, Grand, and San Juan counties have been approved to move from Red to Yellow when COVID case numbers decrease in those counties. The COVID Alerts and Information page contains more information.

Like many organizations forced to rethink ways in which business is done due to COVID-19, the Utah Courts recognize there have been many changes and challenges. Some changes, such as remote hearings, have benefited the public and provided greater transparency. While some of the challenges have created frustration at times, the Utah Courts are continuously working through them and expect those efforts to make our judiciary more agile and efficient over time.

Click here for the Oct. 2, 2020 Administrative Order:

https://www.utcourts.gov/alerts/docs/20201002%20-%20Amended%20Pandemic%20Administrative%20Order.pdf

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