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Judiciary Report: Good But Could Be Even Better

Judy Fahys/KUER
Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant spoke to lawmakers at the Capitol on Monday.

The Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court assured lawmakers Monday the state of Utah’s judiciary is sound. But he requested some needed improvements, too.

Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant told members of the Utah House and Senate that reforms they’d enacted last year are the most significant change in Utah justice policy in decades. But he said crucial treatment features of the reform need more attention.

“Putting offenders who would previously have gone to jail or prison back into the community, without treatment, will almost certainly increase crime,” he said.

Around $16 million dollars for substance abuse and mental health treatment was supposed to be part of the Medicaid expansion, which failed last year.

Durrant advised lawmakers about beefing up indigent criminal defense and pretrial release practices.  He also talked about a new program to assist citizens with their civil matters like debt collection, landlord-tenant and family law.

“These specially trained non-lawyers will be called licensed paralegal practitioners,” he said. “For an analogy to the role they will play, you might think of the role of a physicians assistant in the medical setting.”

Durrant also urged lawmakers to provide funding for two new judges.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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