She has battled for the rights of child abuse victims without forgetting the complex issues of prosecuting perpetrators who have been abuse victims themselves.

She's represented clients in complex civil litigation and served on numerous boards for charitable causes.She's described by her colleagues as an attorney who mixes toughness with tenderness - and fairness.

Utah's newest judge on the 3rd District trial bench, Leslie A. Lewis, comes "absolutely and uniquely qualified to the bench," says Bud Scruggs, Gov. Norm Bangerter's chief of staff.

It was Lewis' breadth of experience in criminal and civil law that most impressed the governor, said Scruggs.

"One look at Judge Lewis' qualifications and there's no question she is exceptionally qualified. There's not an ounce of tokenism in this appointment. She's come as strongly recommended as any judge we've ever appointed. It's difficult to find attorneys with such a solid and diverse background."

The question of tokenism only arises because of criticisms raised by a comprehensive Gender and Justice report in April stating that just over 7 percent of Utah's 90 judges are female. Lewis' appointment makes her the only female judge on Utah's district court bench, comprised of 28 other judges.

Bangerter responded to the report saying he needed a broader base of qualified women attorneys to choose from in his appointments. He vowed he would not "give in" to pressure to make "token appointments."

But Scruggs says the governor was delighted with all three candidates the nominating commission presented to him.

"It's going to take a while to get a 50/50 split on the bench but the governor was pleased to see not only one but two qualified women come through the nominating process. We've worked very, very hard the past few years to strengthen the courts. We're seeing an increase in the quality of applicants," said Scruggs.

Lewis believes the nominating commission considered gender as "a factor among many other factors."

"It's important for the judiciary to reflect the presence of the female as well as the male members of the bar. The women judges I've seen serve in this state are extremely intelligent, capable and compassionate individuals," she said.

Serving as a prosecutor with the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office for 10 years prepared Lewis for the demanding role of judge, she said.

"The years I spent prosecuting child abuse enabled me to deal with difficult issues and make tough decisions. I have an understanding of how hard it is for victims to come forward in the criminal justice system.

"I also have a sense for the importance of getting input from victims in sentencing and considering the costs of delay on the victim. Every time a case is continued, the victim is denied closure and relives pain and trauma."

An philosophy that will drive her as a judge is, "Justice delayed is justice denied."

In her six years as a civil litigator, she has observed that there are ways a judge can move a case swiftly through the system.

"If you're willing as a judge to put in slightly longer hours and hold attorneys' feet to the fire, making sure matters go to trial in a prompt manner, it benefits the whole community," she said.

Quoting Alexander Hamilton, Lewis said she shares the notion that, "Justice is the first duty of society."

"Nothing is more important than that people feel they're being treated justly," she said.

Lewis, who has a nine-year-old daughter, Katharine, feels serving as a judge is a way to give something back to a family and community that have given so much to her.

Practicing law is a way of life in the Lewis family. Her father, brothers, sister and uncle are attorneys.

"I have tremendous respect for the law and for lawyers. Judges need to convey that attitude to lawyers.

"Practicing in front of excellent judges in Utah such as federal judge David K. Winder has shown me how to effectively run a courtroom and treat attorneys with honor."