Bill Calls for Impeachment of Judge Harding

Bill Calls for Impeachment of Judge Harding

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A resolution of impeachment is being introduced in the Legislature against 4th District Judge Ray Harding Jr., who is charged with drug possession.

Rep. Neal B. Hendrickson, D-West Valley City, said he is sponsoring the resolution because of Harding's attempts to delay his criminal trial and his hearing before the Judicial Conduct Commission, according to a copyright story Friday in The Daily Herald of Provo.

"There is evidence, and with his motions to suppress the evidence, we feel there is evidence to proceed with this," said Hendrickson, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Judicial Conduct Commission.

The impeachment proceeding would be intended to remove Harding from the bench. It would not affect the criminal case.

Attempts to contact Harding and his attorney, Ed Brass, were not successful.

Harding is scheduled to stand trial in March in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court on two counts of drug possession, both third-degree felonies.

Meanwhile, Harding has filed suit against the Judicial Conduct Commission, contending it had violated his constitutional right of due process by not waiting for the outcome of the criminal case.

Hendrickson said Harding's suit was an attempt to postpone the commission's hearing.

"The Judicial Conduct Commission is ready to act, but he's filed suit to delay its action," Hendrickson said.

Harding also attempted, unsuccessfully, to have evidence gathered at his Highland home suppressed because the drug field test used to secure the search warrant falsely identified a white powder as cocaine.

Rep. Katherine M. Bryson, R-Orem and another member of the conduct commission, said the exact rules for conducting a judicial impeachment are not set.

"We've been remiss in not putting a process in place," Bryson said.

According to the Utah Code, an impeachment proceeding would begin in the House of Representatives, with a resolution from the Judiciary Committee. If the House approves the resolution by a two-thirds vote, it moves to the Senate, which would hear the case. The Utah Constitution requires the Senate to convict by a two-thirds majority.

Harding was appointed to the 4th District Court in September 1995 and served with his father, Ray Harding Sr., who had been appointed to the court 10 years earlier. The elder Harding created the Utah County drug court.

The younger Harding was assigned to the criminal felony division six months ago, where he served until he was arrested July 13. At least two defendants who appeared before Harding have filed motions for review of their cases.

Harding has been on paid administrative leave since his arrest, collecting a salary of $103,000 annually.

In October, Harding completed a three-month drug treatment program at the Betty Ford Clinic in California.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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