Judges in Utah's 3rd District Court have elected Frank Noel as presiding judge.

In the election held Tuesday by the district's 29 judges, Noel was selected over incumbent Leslie Lewis, whose term as presiding judge expires July 1.Lewis and Noel were the only candidates for the post, whose holder is responsible for guiding policy, implementing legislative mandates and hearing recusal motions when litigants challenge a judge's impartiality.

"I hope to build on the fine job Judge Lewis has done during one of the most difficult periods in the history of the 3rd District," Noel said. "My running is in no way anything personal against her."

Lewis, a former Salt Lake County prosecutor, was elected presiding judge in August 1995, succeeding Judge Michael Murphy who was appointed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

As presiding judge, Lewis helped reform the 3rd District Court's handling of spouse-abuse protection orders to better accommodate victims. She also promoted an inmate literacy program.

The 3rd District, which covers Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit coun-ties, is the busiest of Utah's eight judicial districts, accounting for about half of all civil and criminal cases.

This year, the court completed consolidation with the former 3rd Circuit Court, which had handled only misdemeanors, preliminary felony matters and small claims. In April, the two courts moved under a single roof in the new Scott M. Matheson Courthouse.

"It's important to pass around the opportunities for different people to serve in positions of leadership," Lewis said. "I appreciate being elected twice to serve as presiding judge, and I am very pleased Frank Noel has now been selected to serve. He is a man for whom I have great respect."

Noel is a 1972 graduate of the University of Utah law school. His law career centered on civil litigation as an attorney with the Salt Lake City firm of Strong & Hanni before Gov. Scott Matheson appointed him to the circuit court bench in 1983.