Increased salaries for judges, a modern fingerprint tracing system and completion of a regional prison top the list of requests for the 1989 Legislature from leaders responsible for public safety and justice.
CourtsThe inability of the court system to attract experienced, qualified applicants to sit on the bench is a crisis facing Utah's judiciary, says State Court Administrator William Vickrey.
"We are in jeopardy of losing some of our best judges because of poor salaries," Vickrey said. "And nominating committees complain that well-qualified attorneys are not applying."
A less-qualified judiciary has far-reaching consequences for every segment of our state in the enforcement and interpretation of criminal and civil laws.
A citizens' committee recommends the following increases: Utah Supreme court justices from $64,000 to $80,000; district judges from $57,000 to $72,000; and circuit judges from $54,400 to $68,000.
Utah judges now earn 18.62 percent below the national average.
Proposed raises would come to $1.2 million, only 0.17 percent of the total general fund, Vickrey said.
Secondly, the judiciary supports legislation that would upgrade the qualifications for justices of the peace.
Currently, there are 145 JPs in Utah. At least 16 do not have high school diplomas, and many hold court within their homes.
The legislation would require JPs to have at least a high school diploma and hold proceedings in a public building.
Other requests of the judiciary include:
-Modification of the appellate court jurisdiction to allow the Utah Supreme Court to spill over more of its cases to the Utah Court of Appeals.
-$12 million for construction of a new juvenile court in Salt Lake County. One juvenile court judge currently holds proceedings in a drafty trailer.
-$2 million for construction of a circuit court building in Sandy.
-$40,000 to fund planning of a new courthouse in Ogden.
-$40,000 for feasibility study of new courts complex in Salt Lake to house all levels of court.
Utah's new Commissioner of Public Safety, Doug Bodrero, can hardly contain his excitement as he talks about the fingerprint system that could revolutionize law enforcement in Utah. The system, called the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System, would enable a police officer in Utah to compare a fingerprint left at a crime scene with 12 million fingerprint cards recorded in 11 western states.
In 1985, California law officials used this system to catch a suspect in the the infamous "Night Stalker" case involving the murder of 16 people in sadistic assaults.
Had Utah officials been able to use the AFIS system when Anna Holmes was shot at a Kearns video store, the suspect, Charles Kenneth Hodges, could have been arrested in minutes because Hodges had a criminal record in another western state, Bodrero said.
He said the system could save thousands of man-hours because officers could be told, "This is your man. Now go find him."
Instead of purchasing the system, Utah would lease access to the computer equipment at $300,000 a year - "a great deal," said Bodrero.
The safety departments "Anti-Drug" package is Bodrero's second priority. Proposed legislation would increase the department's effectiveness in fighting drug trafficking by: increasing the department's jurisdiction, increasing penalties attached to drug selling, and producing drug and stamp taxes as deterrents.
Other important proposed legislation includes:
-Revising requirements for commercial drivers to meet federal regulations. Stricter standards include a statute that would cause a commercial driver to lose his license the first time he is pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving tests would be tougher, screening drivers with poor driving skills.
-Adding 10 highway troopers. Many areas along the Wasatch front don't have troopers on 24-hour patrol.
The first priority of State Department of Corrections officials is an obvious one - the completion of the Gunnison Regional Prison.
Ken Shulsen, director of Corrections administrative services, said that nearly $18 million is need to complete the facility by 1990.
Last year, lawmakers approved $16.7 million for the facility.
"There has never been a question among lawmakers about the need for the facility," said Shulsen.
The new prison will accommodate 623 maximum security beds. Construction is 40 percent completed today, he said.
Gov. Norm Bangerter is asking $1 million from legislators to begin phase-in operations at the new prison.
"The positive response of legislators to our funding requests so far indicate we are right on course with what Utahns want. They want offenders incarceratedfor their crimes."