The Utah Supreme Court censured two judges who were voted off the bench during last year's retention elections, according to the annual report of the Judicial Conduct Commission.

The JCC investigates reports of judicial misconduct and recommends action when it finds that is necessary.

Only two judges were named as receiving any type of action by the high court. These were former 3rd District Judge Leslie Lewis, who was reprimanded in one case and given the tougher penalty of censure in another, and former Grand County Justice Court Judge Paul Cox.

Both were voted out of office in November 2006.

Lewis made national headlines (and ended up in a devastating appearance on YouTube.com) when she sharply criticized a man in her courtroom who had heaved a sigh and was walking out in the midst of a hearing involving his brother's poaching case.

Lewis berated the departing man from the bench, angrily announced her opinions about the cruelty of deer hunting, cut the man off when he tried to reply to her questions, and even had a deputy handcuff the individual and hold him in a detention cell for a brief time.

The JCC recommended a reprimand for this action and the Supreme Court agreed. The reprimand was for failing to treat the individual with "patience, dignity and courtesy" and for bringing her office into disrepute.

The more serious censure that Lewis received was for having a one-sided communication with an attorney representing a man convicted of sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl, and later reducing the defendant's prison sentence. Lewis did not disclose the communication or the sentence reduction to prosecutors.

The convicted man's case and his sentence are still pending before the Utah Court of Appeals.

Cox did not complete classes designed to provide continuing education for the judiciary but turned in forms that showed falsely that he had. He also had not paid unemployment compensation insurance premiums. The high court determined that did not fulfill the high standards required of his office and also failed to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

The JCC received 91 complaints in the fiscal year 2007. Of these, 84 were dismissed, one (during the summer-to-summer fiscal year) resulted in a recommendation for censure, and six others are still being investigated.


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