Ruling: Judge's actions were 'egregious,' brought 'severe consequences'

Published: Thursday, Aug. 2 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

"The loss of liberty which ensued from this incident cannot be viewed as incidental, nor can a court's responsibility to act swiftly, yet carefully, to maintain courtroom decorum and due process be underestimated," Laycock wrote. "Judge Stoney acted swiftly, but not carefully, and in so doing denied Ms. Damron her 14th Amendment right to due process."

She vacated the woman's conviction for criminal contempt.

"The court concludes that Ms. Damron is not only eligible for the relief requested, but that she is entitled to the relief requested."

Gregory Stewart, who represented Damron in the case, said he was happy with Laycock's decision.

"I think it's a complete vindication for my client and everything she's claimed for the last few years — that she didn't do anything wrong and the way she was treated was in violation of all the rules and law," Stewart said. "Her name is cleared and she's made as whole as possible."

He said his client, who never had a prior criminal history, didn't seek any damages. He noted that judges are immune from civil lawsuits in most cases and Damron has a complaint pending with the Judicial Conduct Commission.

Since the incident, the Utah Legislature passed a bill requiring that all justice courts implement a recording system.

Stoney recently challenged a reprimand handed down by the commission alleging that he issued a $10,000, cash-only warrant against a woman for a minor traffic violation because she allegedly mistreated the judge's clerks. The judge told the Utah Supreme Court that it was a simple mistake and the high court is expected to issue a ruling in the coming months.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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