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John Stockton story assists Utah Supreme Court justice in State of Judiciary speech

Published: Tuesday, June 30 2015 7:30 a.m. MDT

The Honorable Matthew B. Durrant, Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court, addresses the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. Behind him is House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) The Honorable Matthew B. Durrant, Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court, addresses the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. Behind him is House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant used a story about former Utah Jazz star John Stockton to make a point about the state's judicial system.

Durrant recalled the 1984 NBA draft included some of basketball's all-time greats — Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan. Also available that year was Durrant's brother, Devin Durrant, a high-scoring forward from BYU.

Durrant said he learned from his friend Dave Checketts, who was the general manager of the Jazz at the time, that the Jazz were very interested in his brother with the 16th pick.

The day before the draft, Durrant said Checketts called him with some bad news: The team had decided to go another direction. The Jazz planned to take a guard from Gonzaga University named John Stockton.

"I was shocked. This Stockton was a nobody," Durrant said. "Barely able to contain my emotions, I said to Dave, 'You are making a huge mistake.'"

Durrant said he told the story during his State of the Judiciary speech Monday "so that you might have complete confidence in my judgment as chief justice or at least perhaps some confidence as to non-basketball matters."

During his speech to the Utah Legislature, Durrant touched on issues surrounding accessibility, efficiency and transparency in the state courts system.

A survey of lawyers, litigants, witnesses and others who do business in the courts statewide found 93 percent of people are satisfied with their experience, he said. State courts handled nearly 900,000 cases last year.

Durrant said accessibility is the court system's biggest challenge because an increasing number of Utahns can't afford legal assistance. The number of minorities, some of whom don't trust government or don't speak English well enough to understand the proceedings, is also on the rise, he said.

Utah courts have become among the most efficient in the country with electronic filing, payment and warrants, along with real-time access to court calendars and documents, Durrant said.

The chief justice said he believes the courts are more transparent than any part of state government. He noted that since April, the courts have allowed the media to use video cameras in courtrooms. More than 100 hearings and trials have been videotaped, including a two-week trial that was broadcast across the world, Durrant said.

"It is our hope that, by allowing cameras in the courtroom, we will bring the work of our courts closer to the public and that the trust and confidence of the public in fairness and effectiveness of Utah's courts will continue to increase," he said.

Durrant closed his speech going back to Stockton.

"Are there things we could further improve upon? Of course," he said. "But even John Stockton didn't shoot 93 percent from the free throw line. And that was with nobody guarding him. I'm confident my brother Devin would have done better. But it's probably time I get past that."

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