She was the self-styled "girl from the neighborhood," and the whole neighborhood turned out Wednesday to see Tena Campbell sworn in as Utah's first woman U.S. District Court judge.
In her case, the "neighborhood" included hundreds of well-wishers who worked with her or, for some, against her in the same federal courthouse on 400 South and Main where she put on the black judicial robe. Packing the courtroom were clerks, bailiffs, judges, magistrates, secretaries, marshals, prosecutors, former prosecutors - and even defense lawyers whom she fought frequently.For 14 years, Campbell worked with them all as an assistant U.S. attorney, earning their respect as a tough and fair prosecutor who went to extraordinary lengths to nail down the details of a case.
Now she was replacing U.S. District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins, who retired last year from full-time work and took senior judge status.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, noted that the American Bar Association awarded her its highest possible rating.
"Tena will be the first woman on Utah's federal district court bench," Hatch said. "I think that's a terrific thing." She has tried a lot more big cases than most attorneys do in their lifetimes, he said. He expects her to be a great judge.
Hatch told Campbell she would remain on this bench for the rest of her life, "unless we move you up higher."
A friend of hers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stewart Walz, said that until now, the high point of her life was attending last year's Rolling Stones concert. Turning serious, he said she is concerned, compassionate, honest, respectful and respectable.
To be a good judge, one has to be a good person - and she is that, Walz said. But, he continued, "I think it's highly suspect when someone tries to teach her daughter as her first words, `Mick Jagger goes to Paris.' "
Also present for the ceremony was Utah's other U.S. senator, Robert Bennett, as well as friends and relatives of Campbell. One of those, her husband Gordon - also a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office - gave a humorous talk in which he touched on the dedication that became a hallmark of his wife's legal career.
In 1974, she was about eight months, 25 days pregnant with their daughter, Mary Katherine, when she took law school finals at Arizona State University, he said. When she completed the two-week test, "she had finished right at the very top of her class," he said.
In the federal prosecutor's office, she brought her "fierce intelligence" and dedication to bear on some of the thorniest cases ever tried in Utah.
Casting an eye toward some of the state's most famous defense lawyers, Campbell growled, "I see guys that have been pickin' on my woman for a lot of years."
He conceded that in taking on defense attorneys, "she faced just about the best in the business."
After she was sworn in by U.S. District Judge David Sam, the "neighborhood" responded with a thunderous, long-lasting standing ovation. Then her husband and daughter helped her put on the robe of office.
The new judge said she was still stunned with the turn of events. She spent nearly her entire career as a lawyer before the judges she now joins on the bench, she said.
"Just as Sen. Hatch said, we in Utah are very lucky with this federal bench," Tena Campbell said.
On a personal note, she added, when she was with the U.S. attorney's office she worked with friends. She knows the federal judges well, and now that she joins them, she's grateful to be working with another group of friends - her fellow judges.