This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Dean Robert W. Adler of the University of Utah's law school recently expressed his opinion that diversity should not be removed as a factor in choosing Utah's trial court level judges. As the Chair of the Board of Juvenile Court Judges, this caught my attention.
About 16 years ago I began my service as a juvenile court judge. At that time we had 24 juvenile court judges, with six being female or 25 percent. Now we have 28 sitting Juvenile Court Judges, with 12 being female, or about 43 percent.
Over the last decade and a half, I have watched how we, as juvenile court judges, have addressed concerns for Utah's juvenile delinquent population and for families in Utah's child welfare system. Although things were OK in 2000, they are much better in 2016. As I look at why I think things are better today, I have to attribute a good portion of the improvement to the increased gender diversity among Utah's juvenile court judges.
Males and females do not always see the world alike. They also do not approach children, youth and parents the same. When diverse people meet together to solve problems, there is usually a more thorough review of the problems. Thoroughness leads to better solutions. That is what I have seen with Utah's Juvenile Court bench.
An argument can be made that diversity is also good to combat perceptions of bias. Some might argue that an all-white, male bench affects the perceived quality of justice. Whether this perception is justified or not can be discussed at length. However, I would argue strongly that actual diversity affects the quality of justice in a real and positive way. Actual diversity among members of the Juvenile Court bench has certainly helped the youth and families that we serve in Utah's Juvenile Court system.
I hope that as the discussion of whether diversity should be removed as a factor in selecting judges goes forward, the fact that it has proven to be a positive factor among our own Juvenile Court Judges will not be forgotten.
Paul D. Lyman was appointed as a Sixth District Juvenile Court judge in 2000. He is current chair of the board of juvenile court judges.