Senators approved a restructuring of the justice of the peace courts on Wednesday over the strong objections of Sen. Lorin Pace, R-Salt Lake, who disapproves of appointing JPs instead of electing them.
Pace got SB10 amended earlier so county JPs would continue to be elected. But sponsor Sen. K.S. Cornaby, R-Salt Lake, rallied his forces and got the amendment removed.If the bill passes the House, JP courts will become Justice Court judges. They'll be appointed by their city councils or county commissions - whichever jurisdiction they reside in - and must have at least a high school diploma. Currently, of the 140 JPs 25 don't have high school diplomas.
Several senators didn't like that requirement, saying they know fine men and women with good judgment who didn't complete high school. But Bill Vickrey, state court administrator, said by far most of the complaints about the judiciary come against JPs, some of whom aren't qualified. Vickrey said to deal with the increasing workloads on circuit and district judges, more legal work may be given to JPs. But only if those who run the courts are assured that the quality of JPs will increase.