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Rolly: Controversial judge was making court policy

Published October 1, 2012 7:41 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A West Valley City Justice Court judge who retired recently after being harshly criticized for his judicial conduct by a district court judge, and who has a troubled history with women in his courtroom, was a member of the State Judicial Council until last month.

That is the governing body of the state courts.

Keith Stoney, who as a member of the council had a hand in setting policies for the courts, was criticized just a few weeks ago by 4th District Judge Claudia Laycock for throwing a woman in jail for contempt of court because she had a cellphone in her lap during a court proceeding in Saratoga Springs, where Stoney also served as a judge.

Laycock, who vacated the 2010 contempt ruling against the woman, called Stoney's conduct "egregious and the consequences were severe." The woman spent 24 hours in the Utah County Jail. Laycock said her due- process rights were violated.

Stoney also faced a pending public sanction by the state Judicial Conduct Commission for ordering a $10,000 cash-only warrant for a woman, purportedly as retribution for her being rude to court employees over the phone. The state Supreme Court recently overturned that sanction.

Perhaps the strangest of Stoney's judicial actions was an incident just before Christmas in 2006.

A woman and her daughter had gone to the West Valley City court to clear up a warrant that had been erroneously issued over a ticket she had paid. But after she was continually sent back and forth between the justice court and the State Drivers License Division, she and her daughter argued with the West Valley City court clerk.

Stoney got word that they were rude to the clerk and threw them both in jail for 10 days.

They would have been in jail over Christmas, but a young attorney with the Public Defenders Office heard about their plight and filed a motion with 3rd District Court to get them released.

Stoney then summoned the attorney to face contempt of court charges. That threat later was dropped.

This is the guy who for three years sat on the board that determines policies and rules for the courts.

Law enforcement oversight? • I wrote in Friday's column about a fundraiser Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder is staging Oct. 10 at which donors who contribute $500 or more can shoot a Glock .22-caliber handgun, Remington 870 shotgun and a Colt AR-15 rifle under the supervision of SWAT members. For an extra donation, the guests can participate in a tracer shoot at dusk.

Well, it turns out the sheriff was inviting his well-wishers to break the law.

It is a class B misdemeanor to fire "any tracer or incendiary ammunition anywhere except within the confines of established military reservations," according to Section 65A-3-2 (d) of the Utah code, which is under the Wildland Fire Prevention Act. Winder said those arranging the fundraiser checked with federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and were assured everything was legal. But they didn't check state law.

He said he will notify those planning to attend that the tracer shoot is off.

Utah justice • As you know, Tim DeChristopher is serving a two-year sentence in a federal prison for bidding on oil and gas leases without intending to pay for them. He did it as a protest to the way the Bush administration had rushed the auction for leases in environmentally sensitive areas.

He angered many conservative politicians who benefit from generous oil and gas industry campaign contributions.

So contrast his sentence to the one given recently to Lance Durfey, the arsonist who started the Boulder Mountain fire in June that caused $3.2 million in damage, threatened several homes and killed countless wildlife.

He set the fire because he was mad at the way the Forest Service was managing federal land, he said, which made him a hero with some of the anti-federal government types in Utah.

He was charged in state court, as opposed to the federal case involving DeChristopher. And he got six months in jail and 4½ years probation.

At least the judge ordered him not to drink.

prolly@sltrib.com —






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