Utah’s chief justice says transparency engenders confidence

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SALT LAKE CITY — The chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court told state lawmakers that people’s confidence in the Utah courts remains high because of systems that allow the public to read, see and hear what the courts are doing.

Matthew B. Durrant, while delivering his “State of the Judiciary” address in the Utah House, said a Utah Courts survey showed 93 percent of people reported they were satisfied with their court experience during this past year.  Some 96 percent reported that they were treated with courtesy and respect. Durrant explained this is remarkable considering that the outcome of the court must have a winner and a loser.

“Our job is to provide a just and fair resolution,” Durrant said. Confidence in the courts comes as the judiciary serves many kinds of disputes.

Utah Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant delivered the “State of the Judiciary” address to the Utah House and Senate Monday, Jan. 27. (File photo)

“Our society’s most complex, emotional and difficult problems and disputes all come before our courts,” Durrant said. “The work of solving these issues is not easy, but it is important.” Since the subjects that come before the court are of great importance it is also equally important that the view of the courts, from the public’s perspective, be a positive one.

As of last April, a new court rule allows news media to bring video cameras into the court room and record court proceedings. This, according to Durrant, helps boost public opinion of the courts because the public can see what is going on. This will also help the courts become closer to the people and thereby inspire trust in the court system.

Durrant also said that electronic record keeping has increased court efficiency. The Utah State Courts have “the most comprehensive and advanced electronic court record system in the nation.” This has helped to reduce court clerk work by eight percent over the last two years and has reduced paper costs by $202,000 a year. Because of this kind of efficiency, people’s views of the court system are likely to become more positive.

As Durrant closed his address, he noted the effect transparency has on the people. Since the people can see and read and hear what is going on they will be able to trust that even though there must be a winner and a loser in any case and the proceedings are fair. They will understand that issues brought before the courts are issues that will be dealt with in a solemn manner.

“I assure you, we take our oaths and work seriously,” Durrant said.

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