This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A judge is expected to be free of personal bias, to avoid impropriety or the appearance of impropriety and to be courteous to all who come before the court. These traits help to define what is often called judicial temperament.
The Tribune's editorial board believes that 3rd District Judge Leslie A. Lewis fails the test of judicial temperament and that the people should vote "No" to retaining her on the bench. The question of Judge Lewis' retention appears on the Nov. 7 ballot in Salt Lake, Summit and Tooele counties.
The Utah Judicial Council currently is examining an allegation that Judge Lewis reduced the sentence of a convicted sex offender without notifying the prosecution and without following proper court procedure.
If this were the first allegation of a departure by Judge Lewis from established standards of judicial conduct, we might give her a pass. Judges are human, after all. They make mistakes and, unless the errors are egregious, deserve a second chance.
But this is not the first such allegation. Judge Lewis has been privately admonished twice by the Judicial Conduct Commission, once in 1997 and again in 1999. Though the details of those warnings are not public, they both grew out of complaints by news reporters.
In the first incident, a reporter claimed that the judge was "rude" and "insulting" to him during a murder trial. The second involved a reporter who ran afoul of the judge when she requested the transcript of a hearing in which the judge had placed a child molester with two prior convictions on probation. Lewis purportedly threatened to have the reporter arrested for contempt of court.
The first claim resulted in a warning to the judge, not for dressing down the reporter, but for having had dinner with the defense team in the murder trial while the jury was deliberating.
In yet another, more recent incident, the judge berated a relative of a defendant charged with poaching a deer about why he had sighed loudly and left her courtroom.
In addition to these incidents, random surveys of attorneys who appear before Judge Lewis give her some of the lowest evaluations of any serving judge on the questions of whether her behavior is free from bias and favoritism and whether she demonstrates appropriate demeanor. On those questions she received unfavorable ratings from 40 percent and 46 percent of the attorneys, respectively. Her evaluations for the 2000 retention election were similar.
Together, these factors paint the picture of a judge who lacks the temperament - the personal detachment and self-control - to warrant the public's confidence that she should continue serving on the bench.