OGDEN (AP) — A veteran district court judge who once represented a Utah man in a dispute over the estate of Howard Hughes is stepping down.

Second District Judge Roger S. Dutson will retire from the bench Jan. 1, 2009. The 70-year-old made the announcement Monday at the Ogden courthouse.

Dutson was appointed to the bench in 1988 by then-Gov. Norman Bangerter and was among the first to preside over Utah's drug courts, which divert convicted offenders to treatment to avoid incarceration.

As an attorney, Dutson gained exposure in the late 1970s representing Melvin Dummar, the Box Elder County man who claimed he'd rescued billionaire Howard Hughes in the Utah desert and had been promised a portion of Hughes' estate. Dummar's case is still being fought in federal court.