Utah's newest federal magistrate has some pretty big shoes to fill.

To her chagrin and delight, however, she found out Friday afternoon that the robe fits just right.

The newly sworn-in U.S. Magistrate Brooke Wells joked shortly after donning late U.S. Magistrate Ronald Boyce's judicial robe that she had only one reservation about accepting her mentor's rarely worn cloak — that it would fit her. And, she remarked with a resigned smile, it came pretty close.

Wells' investiture was marked with howls of laughter, and some tears, as friends of the longtime Utah attorney regaled audience members with stories from her years both as a criminal defense attorney and federal prosecutor.

Wells is filling the vacant spot left by Boyce's death last fall. After accepting Boyce's judicial robe from his widow, Darlene, Wells said, "I will wear this robe with honor and I will wear it with pride in him."

Wells pledged to "work to uphold the dignity of the office . . . and treat everyone who appears before me with dignity and fairness."

A graduate of the University of Utah law school, Wells joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in 1994 after 15 years as one of the state's most prominent defense attorneys. She worked on the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association's capital homicide team for 10 years and later served as the violent crimes section chief at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Her former bosses at both organizations praised Wells' unflagging work ethic on Friday, as well as her ability to find humor in difficult situations.

U.S. Attorney for Utah Paul Warner described Wells as "an original," a woman with a "unique combination of contradictions and constants."

When he met Wells through a Utah State Bar committee in the early 1980s, Warner said he was "pretty certain I would not like her" because of distinct differences in the pair's ideologies. But, he said, the two became fast friends and have remained that way for more than 20 years.

Wells has "wanted to be first an attorney and then a judge for most of her adult life, and it hasn't always been easy," said F. John Hill, executive director of the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association. Wells entered the U.'s law school in the mid-1970s as a single mother to a 4-year-old boy.

David Eckersley met Wells when the two were first-year students and marveled at Wells' ability to "maintain her enthusiasm and her zeal for her calling" after so many years and so many difficult cases. She has never become cynical or jaded, he said.

"While she took her job seriously, she did not take herself seriously," Eckersley said.

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