While many Utahns stayed up until the wee hours of the morning Wednesday awaiting news on tight races, few lost sleep over the judicial retention votes.
Judges run unopposed because of a change in Utah's Constitution that became effective two years ago.All 32 judges on the ballot received at least 80 percent approval and approximately 15 percent disapproval.
Until 1986, judges could be challenged in an election.
For example, in 1984 then-5th Circuit Judge Raymond S. Uno opposed then-3rd District Judge Ernest F. Baldwin Jr. Uno launched an aggressive campaign against the incumbent judge, successfully bumping Baldwin from the district bench. Consequently, Uno replaced Baldwin and still serves as a 3rd District judge.
Uno's victory was the last time in Utah history that a person could obtain a judgeship through an election.
A problem with contested elections for judges, says State Court Administrator William Vickrey, is that the election process could compromise the integrity of a candidate who may seek to foster the favor of groups contributing to his campaign.
"If you put a judge in the position of having to go through opposed elections, he has to go to the people and special-interest groups to raise money. A judge can't easily run a campaign and be beholden to someone," said Vickrey.
Retention elections have replaced contested elections in Utah to ensure the independence of the judiciary. Judges now face a "yes" or "no" vote after their first three years on the bench and every six years thereafter.
Unopposed retention elections are the result of a revision in the Utah Constitution and a change in state law approved by lawmakers and voters.
In order to be placed on the ballot for retention at all the law requires the judges to be evaluated and certified by the 14-member Judicial Council, which judges the judges in five areas.
The council first checks whether any disciplinary action was taken against the judge during the current term on the bench. The council then makes sure the judge meets constitutional and statutory requirements by being at least 25 years old and by living in the geographical area he or she serves.
The general health of the judge is considered, along with how effective the judge has been in managing the workload and whether the judge has been in compliance with the Code of Judicial Conduct.
"This certification process ensures that the judges of this state continue to serve at the highest level possible," said Vickrey.
Utahns voted to retain state Supreme Court Justices I. Daniel Stewart and Michael D. Zimmerman.
Stewart, 56, was appointed to the Supreme Court by former Gov. Scott Matheson in 1979 and served as associate chief justice from 1986 to 1988. In 1986, he was voted Appellate Court Judge of the Year by members of the Utah State Bar. Stewart received his law degree from the University of Utah College of Law in 1962.
Zimmerman, 45, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1984 by Matheson. He serves as a member of the Utah Judicial Council, the Gender and Justice Task Force, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Task Force and the American Judicature Society. This year, he was voted Appellate Court Judge of the Year. He received his law degree from the U. in 1969.
Other judges retained in their respective jurisdictions include:
First Circuit Court (including Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties) - Judge Robert W. Daines.
First and 2nd Juvenile Courts - Judge Stephen A. Van Dyke.
Third District Court (including Salt Lake, Summit and Tooele counties) - Judges Scott Daniels, J. Dennis Frederick, Timothy R. Hanson and John A. Rokich.
Third Circuit Court - Judges Floyd H. Gowans, Paul G. Grant, LeRoy H. Griffiths, Maurice D. Jones, Sheila K. McCleve, Tyrone Medley, Philip K. Palmer, Eleanor S. VanSciver and Edward Watson.
Third Juvenile Court - Judges Arthur G. Christean and Franklyn B. Matheson.
Second District Court (which includes Weber, Davis and Morgan counties) - Judges Rodney S. Page and David E. Roth.
Second Circuit Court - Judges K. Roger Bean, Phillip H. Browning, S. Mark Johnson, Alfred Van Wagenen and W. Brent West.
Fourth District Court (including Wasatch, Utah, Juab and Millard counties) - Judges George E. Ballif and Ray M. Harding.
Fourth Circuit Court - Judges Joseph I. Dimick, E. Patrick McGuire and Robert J. Sumsion.
Fifth District Court (including Washington, Iron and Beaver counties) - Judge Robert F. Owens.