SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers voted Wednesday to ban the practice of considering race or gender in the tiebreaking process for equally qualified judicial nominees.
HB39, sponsored by Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, passed with a 47-25 vote and moves to the Senate for consideration.
Nelson said the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice violated the state Constitution with a policy allowing an appointment board to consider consider diversity through race and gender as matters of merit in filling judicial positions.
Nelson said the bill would move the power for setting evaluation criteria from the commission and place it in the hands of the Legislature. The bill would also adopt additional criteria for determining the fitness to hold the position.
“I really believe this comes down to the role of this body, our constitutional responsibilities to select judges and be involved in that process,” said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab. “If there is a compelling reason to consider other issues, we should establish that.”
House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, was among those who spoke against the bill.
“I think we do ourselves a favor in the state of Utah by allowing the nomination commissions to do exactly that when every other factor has been taken into account and they are judged to be equal among applicants,” King said.