CEDAR CITY – After a grueling application and interview process, five names are on their way to the governor’s office for review of a new judgeship.
The 5th District Judicial Nominating Commission has chosen five nominees for a vacancy in 5th District Court. Lawmakers created and fully funded the judicial position during the 2017 legislation session.
The 5th District encompasses Beaver, Iron and Washington counties.
There were about 25 applicants for the position but only about half of those were interviewed. From that list, the nominating commission chose five nominees they sent to Gov. Gary Herbert for consideration.
The nominees for the vacancy are Matthew Bell, assistant attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office; Jack Burns, attorney, Burns Law Office; Eric Gentry, deputy county attorney, Washington County Attorney’s Office; Rachelle Shumway, deputy county attorney, Washington County Attorney’s Office; and Jay Winward, attorney, Winward Law PLLC.
The public can submit comments to the nominating commission until Aug. 21 at noon. If there is any additional information provided about a nominee that may concern the commission, it has the right to call the nominee in to speak with them.
In drastic measures, the commission can also terminate an applicant’s nomination to fill it with another applicant, Ron Gordon, executive director for Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, said. However, Gordon said, he has never seen that happen.
“I have seen where the commission pulls a nominee in to speak with them about something they have received from the comments but afterwards they’ve always been comfortable with the response,” Gordon said, “and so, I have never seen a nominee removed from the list.”
After the public comment period, the names will be sent to Herbert who will have 30 days to make an appointment. Herbert’s appointee is subject to confirmation by the Utah Senate, which Gordon said is often another grueling process, and there are never any guarantees.
“We never assume anything,” Gordon said. “The Senate is separate branch of government. They play a separate role and it is a separate process. We hope for the best but we don’t assume that just because the governor has appointed someone that the Senate is going to automatically sign off on it. The senate plays an independent role from the governor’s office and they get to make their own decision.”
Utah’s judicial nominating process is held in high esteem by many states, Gordon said, as it is set up to be nonpartisan.
“The nominating process in Utah is based on merit, not politics,” Gordon said. “The governor can’t even ask the nominees about their political affiliation and he’s not allowed to consider their politics when he’s making his decision.”
Additionally, the seven-member commission can only have four members from the same political party.
Written comments on the nominees can be submitted to the 5th District Judicial Nominating Commission chair Cindy Bulloch by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, P.O. Box 142330, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2330.
The deadline for written comments is Aug. 21 at noon. The Nominating Commission may request further information or conduct an investigation of the nominees after reviewing public comments.
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