Friday, February 24, 2006

Judges do not get to engage in civil disobedience

In re Inquiry of a Judge, The Honorable Walter K. Steed, 2006 UT 10

The Right Honorable Judge Steed has been a practicing polygamist for more than twenty-years. He has three wives and thirty-two children. The Judicial Conduct Commission determined that this violated his oath office in which he pledged to obey and defend the Utah Constitution. The supreme court agreed and ordered Judge Steed’s removal as a justice court judge in Hilldale, Utah:

Judges in this state are expected to abide by all the laws applicable to them. Civil disobedience carries consequences for a judge that may not be applicable to other citizens. The dignity and respect accorded the judiciary is a necessary element of the rule of law. When the law is violated or ignored by those charged with the fair and impartial enforcement of the law, the stability of our society is placed at under risk.

The court also dropped this little zinger to the legislature in a footnote:

We note that Utah Code section 78-8-107(8)(c) contains a provision requiring this court to act on judicial discipline matters within 90 days. Such a statutory regulation of this court’s internal process is beyond the constitutional authority given to the Legislature to regulate the composition and procedures of the Judicial Conduct Commission. Thus, while we share the Legislature’s apparent view that these matters require our prompt attention, we view the statutory limit as being without effect.


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