Most Utah judges up for retention have favorable recommendations

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The Utah Supreme Court and the Utah Court of Appeals both meet in the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City. (Daily Universe)

Provo voters will help decide during the 2020 general election on whether 14 state judges and one local judge will stay in office for another term.

Utah is one of six states that has judicial retention elections. Judges on the ballot are not running against other judicial candidates, rather, voters have the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no” on whether the judge should keep their position for another term.

To help inform voters about judges and their performance, the Utah Legislature created the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) in 2008. JPEC is made up of 13 members who evaluate the judges and give a public recommendation about whether each judge should be retained in office. 

If a candidate receives more “no” votes than “yes” votes, they are not retained and lose their spot on the bench. When a judge isn’t retained for another term, their position becomes vacant starting the first Monday in January. 

Every judge on the ballot for Provo voters received a unanimous vote of approval from the JPEC, as did almost every state and local judge up for retention in Utah.

In evaluating each judge, JPEC also sends a survey to attorneys, court staff, jurors and allied professionals who have worked with the judge in the courtroom. From that survey, each judge is given a score on the percentage of survey respondents that recommend that the judge be retained for another term. 

Almost all of the 15 judges on the ballot had at least 90% of their survey respondents recommend that they be retained. Court of Appeals Judge David Mortensen received an 88% recommendation and Court of Appeals Judge Ryan Harris received an 81% recommendation. Court of Appeals Judge Jill Pohlman received the highest score with 100% of respondents recommending she be retained. 

Voters can visit JPEC’s website for information about judges who appear on the 2020 ballot.

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