2016 Bills

HJR1: Requiring Justice Court Judges to Be Trained in the Law

This bill has been abandoned by its sponsor and is no longer under consideration.

Justice courts are not considered “courts of record” and are controlled and operated by municipalities. The legislature has previously attempted to reform these courts in a common sense way, but leadership defunded the bill late in the session and the reform died.

Representative Craig Hall has sponsored House Joint Resolution 1—a proposal to amend Utah’s Constitution—to focus on one key aspect of such courts, namely, that the “judges” over which they preside are not actually required to have any legal training.

For example, here are some excerpts from biographies for justice court “judges” in Utah, as listed on the Utah Courts website:

He worked in banking for eight years and the insurance industry for 10 years before becoming a dairy farmer for 17 years. He has driven a bus for 46 years, which he continues to do.

He has served as chief of police in Milford and as a deputy sheriff for Beaver County.

Her past work experience includes being licensed by the State of Utah as a Mortgage Loan Officer for over 25 years.

He owned and operated a dairy farm until 2003. Since that time, he has served as the recreational director for Beaver City.

Utah’s Constitution currently states that “no qualification may be imposed which requires judges of courts not of record to be admitted to practice law.” HJR1 would eliminate this prohibition, specify that judges must be “admitted to practice law in Utah,” and require that such judges be at least 25 years old, a U.S. citizen, and a resident of Utah for three years preceding their selection as a justice court judge.

If each chamber of the Utah legislature passes HJR1 with a 2/3 vote or more, and upon the Governor’s signature, Utah voters would be tasked with ratifying the proposal on the November ballot based on a majority vote.

Rep. Hall has also sponsored House Bill 160 to make coordinating statutory changes, should the constitutional amendment pass.