Utah Juvenile Court Judge Fired

Utah Juvenile Court Judge Fired

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- For the first time in state history, Utah's Supreme Court has fired a juvenile court judge.

The ruling ends a three-year conflict that began with a complaint from state Guardian ad Litem Kristin Brewer that Joseph Anderson was taking too long to schedule hearings for and rule on child welfare cases, violating state laws.

"The integrity of the judiciary, the interests of the people of Utah, and the past behavior of Judge Anderson all require a severe sanction," said the court in Friday's opinion.

"Any sanction short of removal will neither correct the damage done to the judiciary nor restore Judge Anderson to the proper level of function and dignity that his office requires."

The state's Judicial Conduct Commission, which investigates complaints against judges, took issue with 11 of Anderson's cases.

When the the commission recommended the Utah Supreme Court publicly reprimand the judge, Anderson fought its decision -- filing a federal lawsuit and a constitutional challenge to the structure of judicial discipline as it exists in Utah.

That lawsuit named Brewer and former Conduct Commission officials as defendants and alleged they had conspired to remove him from the bench.

The justices spent much of their 29-page opinion lambasting Anderson's conduct, saying it was "animated by a single disturbing theme: the denial of blameworthiness for his actions, and a concomitant unwillingness to find a way to do his job."

Anderson had argued he struggled with an increased caseload, inadequate support staff and uncooperative attorneys in his courtroom, and that many other juvenile court judges were also not adhering to time restrictions.

"As far as the case itself is concerned, I'm very disappointed in the outcome, obviously, to myself and maybe more importantly to the judiciary and the independence of the judiciary in our state," Anderson said.

"We engaged in these proceedings a long time ago because I believe and still believe there are important constitutional issues that affect the ability of the judiciary to make decisions independently."

The justices said Anderson gave them no reason to believe he was motivated by constitutional concerns when he violated statutory deadlines.

Anderson's attorney, Wayne Petty, said it is not known at this point how Friday's ruling would impact the federal case. The lawsuit had been on hold pending the outcome of the proceedings before the Supreme Court.

Brewer declined comment on Friday's decision.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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