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Posted: 2:58 PM- Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine M. Durham this afternoon put a spotlight on what could be one of the judiciary's toughest fights this session: overhauling the state's municipal courts.
During the annual State of the Judiciary address at the Legislature this afternoon, Durham urged lawmakers to support legislation by Sen. Lyle Hillyard that would implement changes in Utah's municipal courts - established by counties and cities to hear class B and C misdemeanors, ordinance violations, small claims, and infractions.
A Judicial Council committee has proposed making justice court judges, who serve at the pleasure of city mayors and county councils, full-time state employees with six-year terms subject to retention elections. A college education would also be required.
The Utah Association of Counties and the Utah League of Cities and Towns has said they will lobby against the legislation in favor of local control.
Durham outlined Hillyard's bill as aimed at improving the perception of justice courts as a place for fair dispute resolution, rather than, as critics say, simply generating revenue for city and county coffers.
"This is not a proposal for state government to take over the justice courts," Durham told lawmakers this afternoon. "There will no doubt be differing views about the specifics of the proposed changes, but I urge you to give careful consideration to the principles underlying Senator Hillyard's bill ... I urge you to seize this opportunity to reform a system in need of attention and to enhance the public's confidence in these courts."