Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Judge Claudia Laycock swears in Joshua Faulkner in 4th District Court on Thursday. Faulkner, a BYU law school graduate, once served as a law clerk to Laycock.

PROVO — With a new black robe and a giant wooden fish to decorate his office, Commissioner Joshua K. Faulkner stepped up Thursday as the newest addition to the 4th District Court.

"I am grateful to work with many of you, the judges in this great enterprise, ensuring that we have a venue in which to work out our conflicts, resolve differences," Faulkner said, addressing the jury box filled with his black-robed judicial peers, plus family, friends and attorneys in the audience. "I hope I can contribute with all of you."

Faulkner was appointed May 30 after being voted in by the 4th District and Juvenile Court judges. His position was approved during the 2008 Legislative session.

"This is a long-awaited day for the 4th District Court and Juvenile Court," said Judge Derek Pullan. "I don't know that anyone is more happy than Commissioner Patton. If you see a broad grin on his face, that's why."

Since coming to the court in 2001, Commissioner Thomas Patton has handled domestic cases alone.

In courts across the state, the caseload averaged 1,600 to 1,800 family-law cases for each commissioner. Yet in 4th District with only one commissioner, the load was around 2,800, said court executive Paul Vance.

"The caseload has gradually gone up ... to where it's too much for one," Vance said. "The county's growing."

Now, Faulkner will divide his time between helping Patton in District Court, as well as assisting as a commissioner for Juvenile Court.

A commissioner makes recommendations to a judge — not rulings — regarding custody battles, guardianship, protective orders, divorces, etc.

After hearing evidence, commissioners make recommendations and sends those recommendations to a judge for his or her approval.

If the often emotionally distraught parties disagree with the recommendation, they can appeal and the judge will review the case.

"As you well know, these litigants are filled with strong and vacillating emotions, ranging from indignant outrage to bitter despair," Pullan said. "Commissioner Faulkner, these are the citizens you will serve, who, with an exhausted nature, have taken the first disagreed step of asking the lawyer to step up. They will look to you for wisdom and resolution."

"It's hardest for me when I'm called up to make a decision about the custody of people's children," Patton said. "People are not only turning their lives but the lives of their children over to you to make the right call. There's a lot of pressure put on you."

But Patton said he has complete confidence in Faulkner, who had appeared before him as an attorney.

Citing his love of fishing, former law partner, employer and mentor Marilyn Moody Brown gave Faulkner the large fish as a going-away present. She reminisced that a few years ago Faulkner came back from a fishing trip to Chile and "told us the biggest and best fish he ever caught got away in Chile," she said.

"That's kind of how we feel at our office," Brown continued. "The best fish we ever caught got away."

Faulkner graduated from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, served as a law clerk to Judge Claudia Laycock and worked with Brown for six years.

However, he said his proudest accomplishment is being a husband to Michelle and father to his four children.

"We're excited for this opportunity," Michelle Faulkner said, watching her husband thank and hug numerous well-wishers after the swearing in. "This is a realization of something he's always wanted to do."

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