History-Making Utah Judge: Great Value in Judicial Diversity

Utah State Rep. Merrill Nelson, a Republican and vice chairman of the House Judiciary, says a screening commission that vets candidates for judgeships should stop weighing diversity on the bench as a factor, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Nelson interprets the state Constitution and state law as supporting his view.

But “the language is not so clear,” the newspaper reports, and retired 3rd District Judge Tyrone Medley, the only African American who has served on the state bench, sees great value in judicial diversity.

“Our judicial system relies heavily on the public trust and confidence in the court system,” Medley said. If the population diversifies and the courts do not, the judiciary ‘runs the risk of challenging and eroding public confidence in the court system.’

“Along that same line, I think diversity, in fact, enhances the legitimacy of the court system and is consistent with our population following the rule of law,” he said. “Without it, you have a scenario where, at a minimum, you have a perceived bias in the decision-making process.”