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Group Formed to Monitor Judges' Rulings

Group Formed to Monitor Judges' Rulings



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A group called Utah Judicial Watch has been formed to monitor judges and call voters' attention to "departures from the constitution and the rule of law."

The group's president, Petter (pronounced Pedder) Olsen of Draper, said it will keep on eye on judges who "interpret what the law ought to be instead of what it is," and it will campaign to get out the vote for judicial retention elections.

"If you were to ask voters what they know about our judges, there's very little knowledge about them and the decisions they make," said state Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who along with former state Sen. Bill Barton and educator Lincoln Fillmore are listed on the organization's Web site as its board of directors. "We want to bring a little more scrutiny to the process."

One case in particular the group is watching is a pending Utah Supreme Court appeal of a lesbian's acquisition of parental rights in Salt Lake County to her ex-lover's child "despite having no blood relationship," Olsen said. "That concerns us."

Nancy Volmer, public information officer for the state Administrative Office of the Courts, the governing body for the state court system, said officials there were not familiar with Olsen's group, but welcome feedback.

"Utah's courts work with schools, civic groups, and communities throughout the state in the hopes of increasing the understanding of the courts and the importance of the rule of law," she said.

"While we're not familiar with this particular group, we would hope their efforts will help advance public confidence in the judicial system."

The group had its public debut at a Sept. 30 meeting in Sandy that drew about 30 people.

Olsen plans the group's Web site as a destination for bloggers on the courts, as well as the reports of his volunteer monitors.

"Membership growth at this point is not huge ... but we hope as we continue to operate, more people will see not only the need for this organization but how they personally can contribute to its mission and growth," he said.

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On the Net: Utah Judicial Watch: http://www.utahjudicialwatch.org/

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Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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