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Utah seeking national criminal justice center

Utah seeking national criminal justice center

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's legal community is working to bring a national criminal justice training center to Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller, the University of Utah law school and the National District Attorneys Association are collaborating to bring a new facility to train prosecutors and public defenders from across the country.

"It would be a huge step for Utah if we're able to pull it off," Miller said. "There's still quite a few steps that need to take place."

It's boot camp for prosecutors. For prosecutors, it's a life-changing experience. It can't be duplicated. That would hold true with legal defenders, too.

–Scott Burns

Scott Burns, executive director of the district attorney's association, anticipates 8,000 to 10,000 lawyers from around the country would travel to Utah annually for weeklong instruction from some of the top lawyers in the country.

"It's boot camp for prosecutors," Burns said. "For prosecutors, it's a life-changing experience. It can't be duplicated. That would hold true with legal defenders, too." The Deseret News reported that the Department of Justice would need to set aside $50 million to construct a building and run the program.

A similar program exists in Columbia, S.C., which is home to the federally funded National Advocacy Center.

But the South Carolina facility will be limited to federal attorneys within a year, leaving a void for county and district attorneys who handle nearly 98 percent of all prosecutions nationwide.

"It's a huge gap and we're trying to fill it," said University of Utah law school dean Hiram Chodosh.

Chodosh said what makes Utah's proposal unique is the inclusion of public defenders, who he said don't have a comparable national training program. Having both defense attorneys and prosecutors in the same center would create opportunities for dialogue and exchanges "that we think could help our (criminal justice) system immeasurably."

"We all share a common goal of making the system as strong as it can be," he said.


(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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