A proposal to reorganize the state's courts may change a southern Utah judgeship from circuit to district court and eventually eliminate circuit judges altogether.
Retiring 5th Circuit Judge Robert Owens said he has been assured that a replacement will be named for him when he retires Dec. 31. But the question of whether it will be another circuit judge remains.Deputy State Court Administrator Ron Gibson said a report will be presented at an Oct. 17 meeting of the Legislature's Interim Judicial Committee, proposing that the court system be streamlined.
"We're attempting to simplify and streamline and eliminate some of the problems with the present system of jurisdiction," he said. "There are many cases when the same type of case can be filed at different levels of the court system."
Gibson said the plan is in the early stages and came about in an attempt to save money and use buildings more efficiently.
"One of our intentions . . . would be to vest exclusive jurisdiction within one level of the court or another," he said.
For example, Gibson said traffic violations currently can be handled through municipal or justice of the peace courts.
"That concurrent jurisdiction leads to confusion by the public," he said. "It also leads to unnecessary expense to maintain the levels of the court."
Gibson said under the new plan, traffic violations would be handled by only one court and eventually circuit courts would be eliminated.
"In the future we will see a reduced need for circuit judges," he said. It may be that some circuit court openings won't be filled in the future, he said.
As for replacing Owens in southern Utah, Gibson said the options will be discussed at the Oct. 17 meeting.
"We will decide then whether to proceed and fill the post with a circuit judge or postpone the decision and submit a proposal to the Legislature to convert that vacancy to a district judgeship," he said.