Utah 2012 Legislative Year in Review: judicial discipline, legal self-help centers

New laws and resolutions affecting the courts enacted or adopted by the Utah legislature in 2012 include the following:

SB 100 Creates a self-help center within a courts law library. Requires that the self-help center be staffed by licensed attorneys. Allows the self-help center staff to assist court patrons in obtaining and filling out documents. Provides that self-help center staff are to answer questions regarding the court process, law, and options; provide information, but not give legal advice; and offer resources regarding the law library and other avenues for legal assistance.

SB 153 Provides Judicial Council may enact its own rules, consistent with existing law, governing procurement by the judicial branch.

SB 154 Includes court commissioners in the definition of at-risk government employee for purposes of privacy of government-held information related to individuals/officeholders.

SB 169 Allows the Utah Supreme Court to appoint a justice court judge to the Judicial Conduct Commission. Allows the Judicial Conduct Commission discretion to dismiss a complaint against a judge, even if it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that judicial misconduct occurred, if it determines that a public sanction is not warranted.

SB 200 Makes numerous modifications to states justice courts. Establishes and amends procedures to establish and expand the territorial jurisdiction of justice courts. Amends and consolidates the minimum operating standards of justice courts. Amends the Judicial Councils authority to establish rules and procedures concerning the creation and expansion of justice courts. Provides for uniform fees of the justice courts. Requires every prospective justice court judge to attend an orientation program conducted under the direction of the Judicial Council before the justice court can be certified and qualified to hold office. Authorizes the governing body of a justice court to create specialized calendars and exempts judges who hear these calendars from being assigned at random. Modifies the procedures and penalties for failure to comply with continuing education requirements. Modifies the procedures and penalties for failure to comply with compensation limits, limits on secondary employment, and limits on holding elected or political offices and requires the Judicial Council to file a formal complaint for violations. Amends the procedures to appoint a temporary justice court judge and prohibits a retired justice court judge from serving as a temporary justice court judge. Modifies and establishes new standards for when and where a municipality and county may hold justice court and authorizes the Judicial Council to determine when and where justice courts my hold court.

SJR 3 Directs Legislative Management Committee study fines, taxes, and financial issues imposed by the courts and other issues.