Two brothers, A. Lynn Payne Jr., 44, of Vernal, and David Young Payne, 41, North Salt Lake, are a rare team - both are attorneys and Utah judges.
"We were always close as children and we grew up being great friends," said David Payne, justice court judge in North Salt Lake since 1979. "I talked my brother into becoming a lawyer instead of an accountant, and it is no surprise to me that we are both judges today, although I think my brother is surprised it worked out this way."A. Lynn Payne, the 8th Circuit Court judge in Duchesne, Uinta and Daggett counties, gave up his private law practice in eastern Utah after Gov. Norm Bangerter appointed him to the bench in 1987.
He holds his circuit court in four places: in Vernal three days a week, Duchesne one day a week, Roosevelt one day a week and in Manila, Daggett County, one day a month. He handles A, B and C class misdemeanors and conducts preliminary hearings on all felony cases.
There is only one judge in the 8th District Court in his area, Dennis Draney, so Payne sometimes sits on the district court bench when Draney is busy, and Draney sits in for him at the circuit court on occasion.
"I liked private practice and moved to this area for the outdoor life and small-town atmosphere. I still have the outdoor life and the atmosphere and I love being a judge. I'm glad my brother, David, talked me into going to law school."
Payne says being a small-town judge is a lot different from sitting on the bench in Salt Lake City. "I see people on the street or in stores that I have had to sentence in court - people I've put in jail. I treat everyone with respect, in and out of court, and I've had no problems."
David Payne, who founded the Robert Norris & Associates law firm in Salt Lake City, a branch of the law firm headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., that has offices in 21 cities, said he has enjoyed being a small-town judge since he started in North Salt Lake more than 11 years ago.
Like his brother, he sees people on the street and in stores whom he has given stiff fines or has had to sentence to jail, but, he says, "no matter what a person has done, he deserves to be treated with dignity and respect."
Payne said he takes a personal interest in people, especially those who appear before him in court. "I like being a judge. I like to help people and I have, I think, been able to change a lot of people's direction."
Payne is well-known among city judges in Davis County for visiting people in the Davis County Jail whom he has sentenced. He is also well-known for his good humor in court and the relaxed atmosphere he tries to create. "I spend as much time with defendants as I can, and I try to get to know them. There's a lot more opportunity for that in a small-town court than there would be in a big city."
Payne says he can't help everyone. Some people just don't want to change, he says. "But I have been able to influence many people, and that gives me a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction."
He spends about 10 to 12 hours a week as a judge, holding court three times a week in his office in the North Salt Lake City Hall or in the city's courtroom. In a typical year, more than 10,000 cases will be handled in his court, making it as busy as or busier than any justice court in Davis County.
Payne says his private practice in Salt Lake City gets busier all the time, "but I wouldn't like to give up being a judge. It is a great responsibility and a wonderful experience. I love every minute of it."