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The Utah State Bar voted recently to oppose House Bill 93, which repeals the authority of the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice ("CCJJ") to make rules related to evaluation criteria used for the selection of judicial nominees. The Utah Bar opposes HB93 because it impairs a judicial selection process that has yielded a state judiciary that is unrivaled throughout the nation and perhaps around the globe.

Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant described the quality of Utah's judiciary to the Utah Legislature in his 2017 State of the Judiciary address as follows:

"During my tenure as chief I have seized upon every opportunity to brag about our judges and our court system. I often make the case that we are the best judiciary in the country. I did this recently at our annual judicial conference, which was attended by the President of the National Center for State Courts, the sister organization to your National Conference of State Legislatures.

"As I spoke, I wondered if, in her eyes, I was overstating my case. And in fact when she stood up, my fear seemed to be realized. She began by saying, 'Chief Justice Durrant has it wrong.' But then she went on to say that Utah's judiciary is not just regarded as the best in the nation, but as a model internationally. She added that when people ask her which judicial system is the best organized, most efficient, and best managed among all the states, the answer is easy – it's Utah."

Durrant went on to thank the Legislature for formulating a merit-based selection process that promotes "the best and brightest from among the legal profession to serve as our judges."

The Utah Bar shares the chief justice's gratitude for the Legislature's efforts to create a state court system that is unrivaled in national and international spheres. Utah's reputation for excellence in its judiciary is a testament to the fact that the current selection system is not broken, and is not in need of fixing.

Currently the CCJJ sets evaluation criteria for the selection of judicial nominees. HB 93 simply does away with the CCJJ's ability to establish these criteria. The task of developing criteria is not assigned to any other administrative body and the bill provides no guidance for how Utah is to maintain its excellent judicial selection process. This is a step backward, not forward.

Additionally, the criteria the CCJJ currently uses are hardly controversial. Here are some of the criteria:

• Integrity. An applicant should be of undisputed integrity.

• Professional Experience. The length of time that a lawyer has practiced is a valid criterion in screening applicants for judgeships.

• Judicial Temperament. Judicial temperament is universally regarded as a valid and important criterion in the evaluation of an applicant.

• Impartiality. A judge must be able to determine the law and sometimes the facts of a dispute objectively and impartially.

• Diversity. When deciding among applicants whose qualifications appear in all other respects to be equal, it is relevant to consider the background and experience of the applicants in relation to the current composition of the bench for which the appointment is being made.

It is hard to identify why the CCJJ's current criteria, including important concepts like integrity, judicial temperament and impartiality, are lacking. These criteria have served Gov. Gary Herbert well. Herbert has appointed more than half of the judges sitting on Utah's bench. My colleagues in the Utah Bar and I have appeared before Herbert's appointees and judges appointed by other governors. We can personally attest to the excellence of our judiciary which, no doubt, is a consequence of the selection process the Legislature has historically and carefully maintained.

In short, the CCJJ's selection criteria have served Utah exceedingly well. Utah judges are without peer in the nation and perhaps internationally. For these reasons, the Utah State Bar opposes House Bill 93.

Robert O. Rice is president of the Utah State Bar.