Roger Livingston is now a 5th Circuit Court judge. The Utah Senate confirmed him in a 21-7 vote Wednesday, all seven no votes coming from Democrats.
But the questions over Livingston's appointment probably aren't fully answered.Livingston's confirmation is unique and it's history tells a tale about personal friendships and politics in Utah.
The 38-year-old deputy county attorney had put his name forward for judicial nomination before. But the Judicial Nominating Commission declined to recommend him as one of three choices to Gov. Norm Bangerter, even though the commission thought him highly qualified, legally.
Livingston was former Salt Lake County Attorney Ted Cannon's chief deputy. Cannon was in a heap of trouble with the law, and ended up being sent to jail. Members of the nominating commission thought Livingston too controversial at that time.
But after Cannon left office, Livingston applied again for a judgeship and the commission sent his name up, along with two others, to Bangerter.
Democratic senators, a minority in the state Senate, held a closed caucus and decided to ask Bangerter not to nominate Livingston. "We told (the governor) that we could accept either of the other two nominees, but not Roger," says Senate Minority Leader Rex Black, D-Salt Lake.
Sources close to the governor say he knew Livingston would be a controversial pick, but chose to send his name up despite the Democrats' objections.
You see, Livingston admits to holding conversations in 1980 about having a leased luxury car stolen and destroyed so he wouldn't have to make onerous payments on it. In the end, Livingston chose not to commit what would have been a felony. He turned the car back to the owners and took a financial loss on it.
But the fact that he considered he says not seriously, others say seriously committing a felony worried some senators.
Why did Bangerter, who at the time was facing a serious challenge within his own party by Jon Huntsman, decide to make such a controversial nomination?
Bangerter says simply that Livingston is qualified the recommendation from the nomination commission shows that and that he believes he'll make a good judge.
There may be something else to it, however. Sources in the governor's office say he was counseled not to nominate Livingston; that he didn't need that controversy while opponents were accusing him of bad judgment in running state government.
But the decision on Livingston was made on a day when the governor got some bad news. A leading Republican, who had supported Bangerter, called to say that he was going over to the Huntsman camp.
Loyalty should mean something in politics, aides say Bangerter believes. Livingston had always been loyal to him politically. The other two nominees, while also Republicans, weren't personally known to the governor.
So Bangerter picked Livingston, perhaps to make a statement to those who stood with him against Huntsman and others.
Republicans closed ranks. Livingston may not be the best candidate available, several said privately, but he was Bangerter's nominee and they weren't going to embarrass the governor by rejecting him.
After all, if the governor had investigated the car incident and if the nominating commission had investigated the car incident and both passed him, who were they to second guess?
The problem is, neither the nominating commission nor Bangerter really looked into the matter. Two members of the commission told the Deseret News that they weren't even given a copy of an investigator's report on the incident a report leaked to the press in 1986 and only asked Livingston to give his side of the story. Bangerter also didn't look at the report.
How the commission and governor's office conduct background checks of judicial candidates should definitely be questioned.
However, the real issue came down to politics in the Senate. And Republican senators weren't going to allow the Democrats to set their agenda.
Next year we may have a Democratic governor. If so, we'll see how the Republican Senate treats his first couple of judicial nominees. Will they be easliy approved or will the Republican senators take a little revenge for how Livingston was treated by Senate Democrats? Stay tuned.