SALT LAKE CITY — Christine Durham, a former Utah Supreme Court chief justice and the first women to serve on the state's highest court, was honored Thursday by the Utah Legislature.
Both the House and Senate passed a resolution detailing Durham's many achievements during a long legal career that included 35 years on the Utah Supreme Court and 10 as chief justice. She retired from the court in November.
Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, who sponsored HCR6, praised Durham for her brilliance, leadership, compassion, work ethic and common sense.
“She’s an important mentor to countless individuals,” Arent said.
The resolution's Senate sponsor, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, a lawyer, called Durham "a true pioneer in the legal profession in Utah."
Other lawmakers also praised Durham for her impact on the state.
House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said it’s not even a close call that Durham “is the most influential woman in state history.”
He called her a role model for how he approaches his job in the Legislature.
King, a lawyer, said those appearing before her had better be prepared.
“She has the mind of a steel trap,” he said.
Professionalism and civility were hallmarks of her career, he added.
“She is unfailingly polite,” King said.3 comments on this story
Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, said up until Durham joined the state Supreme Court, the court typically followed the federal courts in interpreting the Utah Constitution.
“Justice Durham opened up a whole new frontier of Utah law when she said, ‘We’re not bound by federal court interpretations of our state constitution. We are the first and primary interpreters,’” he said.
Durham developed Utah law beyond what any justices had done before her, he said.
“I think that’s admirable,” said Nelson, a lawyer.
The resolution now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his action.