Chief Justice of Utah to Lawmakers: The Courts are Strong (and Have a Better Record than John Stockton)

Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court, Matthew Durrant
Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court, Matthew Durrant

Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court, Matthew Durrant, addressed the the House and Senate Monday to give the annual State of the Judiciary address. It was clear that nothing but positive things could be said about the Utah’s court system in his eyes.

Durrant opened his speech lightheartedly, mentioning the basketball draft of 1984, which included his brother Devin Durrant. In anticipation for the selection of his brother for the Utah Jazz, Durrant received a call from the Jazz Coaching Team saying that his brother was going to be overlooked in selection of the legendary John Stockton. “I was shocked, because this Stockton guy was a nobody […] you are making a huge mistake” said Durrant. Durrant said this was a proof of his impartial judgment, and of course Stockton would become a vital assert to Jazz later on.

“93 percent of [Utahns surveyed said] that were satisfied with their experience in court today,” according to the Chief Justice. Of an overall survey of 20 questions sent to those who have experienced the justice system recently, several metrics had a nine out of ten satisfaction rate. Durrant attributed this to the feeling of Utahns that they were treated fairly, that their voice was heard, and that they were correctly informed on the steps necessary for their case to move forward.

“I’m not so naive to think that [everyone] fells this way, when you examine the statewide result in courthouse to courthouse, there are various issues in particular locations that we need to address,” said Durrant.

Durrant continued his report, saying that a little under 900,000 cases were heard in Utah courts. “Our job is to provide a fair and just resolution,” said Durrant.

Durrant shifted his focus from the court’s survey results, to the cost of representation. According to Durrant, 16,000 individuals were helped by the state’s Self-Help Center for court proceedings, which help from courthouse locations to court documentation. Durrant continued said that over 60,000 individuals were assisted using Utah’s OCAP (Online Court Assistance Program) program in assisting in cases varying from custody battles to cases of inheritance. He also applauded the Utah State Bar Association in their assistance with pro-bono and sliding-scale casework in Utah. Durrant also told of Utah’s translation services, which offer assistance in 47 different languages.

Finally, Durrant addressed the change in court record keeping, stating that Utah did not spend any money on the cost of record keeping. “The progress we made has had its intended effect on the quantity of work we ask our clerks to do. Their jobs have been more about data quality than data entry,” said Durrant, noting one example where a courthouse was able to expand it’s services without the need for additional taxpayer dollars.

Overall, Durrant ended it with the phrase “John Stockton, 83 percent; Utah Courts, 93 percent,” in reference to Stockton’s free-throw success rate.

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