The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Defense of judge rejection not factual


I am responding to Steven Warrick’s opinion piece (“Hilder rejection justified,” Dec. 3).

As the judge who was not confirmed to the appellate bench, I am not writing to argue the merits of the Senate vote. Rather, as a member of the U community (very proud alumnus and adjunct associate professor of law), I must comment on the apparent intellectual incuriosity or laziness of a U commentator who cites three “reasons” why the appointment was not confirmed, without any substantial effort to get even one underlying fact right.

(1) (According to Warrick) the matter was decided on summary judgment, without giving the attorney general a chance to be heard on the merits.

First, summary judgment is a decision on the merits. It is the correct method of adjudication when no facts are in dispute and the sole question is a matter of law. In the firearms case, both sides stipulated that there were no disputed facts, and agreed the case should be decided on summary judgment.

Second, I ruled only after reading excellent briefs from both sides, studying the law in depth, and hearing argument from first-rate counsel for both sides. Disagree with my ruling all you wish (although it would be better to read it first), but do not state without facts that the case was not decided on the merits.

(2) My poor judicial demeanor. In fact, to this day, no one has cited a single instance of poor courtroom demeanor in my 13-plus years on the bench (and my 13-year-old stepson, who sat through every hearing, swears I behave at home). In fact, I always rank in the highest tier for demeanor, but I confess I have had two critical comments from attorneys in that time. I regret those occasions, and have tried to never repeat them.

On the other hand, I plead guilty to being distressed and perhaps confrontational when accused of certain things behind closed doors that were either not true, or were not appropriate in a confirmation proceeding. As a judge, I care deeply about fairness, but whatever my response, it was not an example of “judicial” demeanor.

(3) Speaking about cases that are not concluded. The correct term is pending or impending. Tragically, the only two cases I have ever discussed were not pending or impending. A criminal case is concluded at the death of the defendant. A divorce is concluded at the death of either spouse. In both cases I spoke out of a concern to aid understanding of the judicial process and advance the cause of justice and understanding in cases with devastating outcomes.

Again, Warrick and others might judge whether I accomplished that purpose in any degree, but there was no violation of any ethical canon. Let’s insist that this great university community hold its members to high standards of intellectual rigor and honesty, just as every citizen should hold every officeholder, including judges, to the highest standards of performance.

Robert Hilder,
Alumnus, College of Law

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