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Nominees announced for vacant Utah Court of Appeals position

Seven lawyers and judges have been nominated as candidates to fill one vacancy on the Utah Court of Appeals on Wednesday. Judge Jill Pohlman left the seat after she was recently confirmed to the Utah Supreme Court.

Seven lawyers and judges have been nominated as candidates to fill one vacancy on the Utah Court of Appeals on Wednesday. Judge Jill Pohlman left the seat after she was recently confirmed to the Utah Supreme Court. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Seven attorneys and judges were nominated for Utah's Court of Appeals on Wednesday by the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission. One of the seven individuals will fill a vacancy left after the confirmation of Judge Jill Pohlman to the Utah Supreme Court on Aug. 17.

The nominees include:

  • Second District Court Judge Rita Cornish
  • William Hains, Utah Attorney General Office assistant solicitor general
  • Debra Nelson, chief appellate officer with the Indigent Appellate Defense Division
  • Third District Court Judge Amy Oliver
  • Samantha Slark, a Salt Lake City senior attorney
  • Second District Court Judge Jennifer Valencia
  • Dallas Young, Utah County Public Defender Association attorney

These names will be sent to Gov. Spencer Cox following a public comment period that ends on Nov. 28. Cox will have 30 days to pick one person to recommend to the Utah Senate to fill the seat. The Senate will then have to confirm the appointment before the new appellate judge joins the bench.

Two female judges from the Court of Appeals were appointed and confirmed to the Utah Supreme Court this year, Pohlman and Diana Hagen, giving the five-person court a female majority for the first time in the state's history.

Cornish, Nelson, Oliver and Valencia were also nominated for the vacancy left by Hagen earlier this year. John Luthy, an attorney with Cache County, was appointed to fill that position and confirmed by the Senate in October.

The Court of Appeals is currently led by Presiding Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forester, and the remaining five judges currently in the court are men.

Comments can be submitted through emailing judicialvacancies@utah.gov or sending a letter to the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, P.O. Box 142330, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2330.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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