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Trent Nelson
John Pearce speaks at his investiture ceremony as a justice on the Utah Supreme Court on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY — To enthusiastic applause and rounds of appreciative laughter, John Pearce took his place as the newest justice of the Utah Supreme Court on Friday.

Pearce was in good spirits as he shared a number of witticisms about his experiences through the years — including emphasizing that, despite his penchant to send prank emails from other people's accounts, he never sent one from the governor while serving in his office — as well as his appreciation for the people he has worked with and learned from.

He was serious, however, as he affirmed his committment to diligently and fairly serve the people of Utah.

"Behind every case this court hears there is someone, often many someones, whose lives are disrupted by an unresolved issue," Pearce said. "The people of the state of Utah deserve a judiciary that protects their rights."

Before swearing in Pearce before the standing-room-only crowd in the Utah Supreme Courtroom, Chief Justice Matthew Durrant noted that the judiciary requires justices who can engage in rigorous debate without falling prey to personal offense, are brilliant and confident in their abilities, possess genuine humility and are willing to listen to others.

"That's a long way of saying John Pearce is a perfect person for this job," Durrant said.

Pearce, who was nominated to the justiceship by Gov. Gary Herbert in November and confirmed by the state Senate a month later, worked as general counsel to the governor for four years before Herbert appointed him to the Utah Court of Appeals in October 2013.

Welcoming Pearce, Herbert praised his thoughtful and meticulous efforts in the governor's office, including his committment to serving the state.

In his application as he was considered for the Utah Supreme Court, Herbert recalled a promise Pearce made: "To do right by the law and people of Utah."

Pearce is Herbert's third appointee to the five-member Utah Supreme Court, following Justice Dino Himonas last year and Justice Tom Lee in 2010. Pearce replaces Jill Parrish, who was confirmed as a federal judge last spring.

Pearce's two sons, Benjamin and Jonas, presented their father with his robe Friday, as well as a Tongan maile, a nod to their mother's heritage. Amid playful jabs at her husband for a tendency to binge watch "Bonanza" reruns during law school, Pearce's wife, Jennifer Napier-Pearce, praised the creativity and tenacity that have set her husband apart throughout his life.

"John has this incredibly strange and wonderful way of looking at the world," Napier-Pearce said. "Thinking outside the box is John's default."

A native of Magna, Pearce graduated from Cyprus High School and got a degree in economics from the University of Utah. He earned his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He has been an adjunct professor at the U.'s S.J. Quinney College of Law and was a shareholder at Jones Waldo Holbrook & McDonough from 1999 to 2009.

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