The state Judicial Conduct Commission has formally reprimanded 3rd District Judge Kenneth Rigtrup, saying he improperly involved himself in a divorce case from which he had earlier excused himself.
The reprimand, released Tuesday by the Utah Supreme Court, stemmed from a complaint filed by Laura C. Davis-Witowski. She said Rigtrup had disqualified himself from hearing her 1986 default divorce because he was a friend of her ex-husband, Blaine Thomas Hofeling.The commission found that Rigtrup reinserted himself in the proceedings in August 1987 by interviewing Hofeling's two minor children and signing a temporary restraining order that kept them from returning to their mother in Florida after a visit with their father in Salt Lake City.
The commission found Rigtrup in violation of the Utah Judicial Code of Conduct.
The commission noted that when Rigtrup was approached by Hofeling's attorney to sign the restraining order, he told the lawyer to go to 3rd District Judge Pat Brian instead.
However, Rigtrup also told the attorney that if he couldn't find Brian, he could come back and he would sign the order.
Court documents show that the children were returned under court order to their mother in September 1987, a month after the Rigtrup incident.
Supreme Court Clerk Sharon Spratley said the commission's ruling marked the first time it has reprimanded a judge.