SLTrib Op-Ed – Utah’s judges should reflect its population

Salt Lake Tribune Op-ed: Utah’s judges should reflect its population | The Salt Lake Tribune

Op-ed: Utah’s judges should reflect its population

| Courtesy Robert O. Rice, op-ed mug.| Photo Courtesy of  Robert O. Rice

The Utah State Bar supports The Salt Lake Tribune’s recent efforts to highlight the importance of a diverse Utah judiciary. (See “Ethnic, gender diversity is for the benefit of all,” on June 29 and “Can Utah diversify its judicial bench? Jury’s still out,” on July 9.)

Lawyers, who represent clients from all aspects of society, have a uniquely clear view of the importance of the background of judges who decide their clients’ cases. Perhaps the question becomes, then, what is our profession doing to promote a system of justice that reflects, in the words of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, “a cross section of America.”  The answer is a great deal.

First, Utah lawyers are actively encouraging lawyers from diverse backgrounds to apply for the bench. Women Lawyers of Utah has developed a program to provide mentoring to its members applying for judicial vacancies. To help demystify the application process, Women Lawyers of Utah offers seminars and pairs applicants with someone who has experienced the nomination process.

Second, the Utah Minority Bar Association is also fully engaged in promoting diversity in Utah’s judiciary. Like Women Lawyers of Utah, the Utah Minority Bar Association actively seeks qualified candidates from its membership and encourages those lawyers to apply for bench openings. The Utah Minority Bar Association also recommends qualified members of the minority bar to serve on judicial nominating commissions.  Understanding that there is more it can do, it has recently created a Judicial Advocacy Committee to evaluate additional action to address this critical issue.

In our own organization, the Utah State Board of Bar Commissioners, lawyers have elected diverse leaders to make policy for lawyers across Utah. Of our 15 voting Bar Commissioners, nine are women. The Bar Commission also enjoys guidance from ex-officio members from the Utah Minority Bar Association and Women Lawyers of Utah and LGBT & Allied Lawyers of Utah. In short, the Bar Commission looks more like the rest of the state, which represents a substantial step toward promoting diversity in other areas of our judicial system.

The ranks of Utah lawyers are steadily growing with immensely qualified, diverse law school graduates from the J. Reuben Clark Law School and the S. J. Quinney College of Law and elsewhere. Clearly, our bar swells with talented lawyers from varied backgrounds educated within and without the state who will for years to come be ready to assume a position on the bench.

Gov. Gary Herbert deserves many accolades for his efforts to appoint women and minority lawyers to the bench, having appointed 20 women and four minority lawyers to the bench during his tenure. I’ve appeared before many of Herbert’s appointments, and I can attest to their strong qualifications and to the fact that the governor has appointed the most qualified applicants possible in every instance.

Herbert’s success in his judicial appointments, the Bar’s efforts to promote diversity on our bench and the steady number of diverse, qualified new lawyers graduating from our law schools is a sure sign of great things to come. Utah is exceedingly well-positioned to ensure that its state court looks more and more like the state it is intended to serve.

A New Kind of Paralegal is Coming to Help Utahns Navigate the Court System


A new kind of paralegal is coming to help Utahns navigate the court system

The Salt Lake Tribune
UPDATED: DECEMBER 14, 2015 10:41PM

There are issues with how Utahns access their justice system, a Utah Supreme Court justice said.

Many people either can’t afford lawyers, Deno Himonas said Monday, or simply don’t want to hire one to help them navigate the court system as they file for divorce, settle debts or resolve eviction issues. “Lawyers have been incredibly generous with their time,” Himonas said. “And are trying to address [those issues] through pro bono measures. But at the end of the day, though, we need to come up with an economically viable model that will help improve access for those individuals in our civil justice system.”

To that end, the Utah Supreme Court has approved the creation of a new legal profession: limited paralegal practitioners.

An LPP, or paraprofessional, will have more training and responsibilities than a normal paralegal, but is not quite a lawyer. The paraprofessional will be able to help the public in those areas where Utahns generally aren’t hiring lawyers.

“They will really help [their clients] navigate the system, if you will,” Himonas told the Utah Judicial Council at its monthly meeting Monday.

Himonas, who chaired a task force committee that explored whether LPPs could help Utahns have better access to courts, told the council that the committee spent the past seven months exploring other states where similar programs exist, and examining what was successful and what was not.

The task force said an LPP can be a cheaper alternative for people who can’t afford a lawyer or don’t want to spend their money on one.

“We recognize the valuable services that lawyers provide to their clients every day, in and out of court,” the report reads. “But the data shows that, even after years of effort with pro bono and low bono programs, a large number of people do not have a lawyer to help them. … The people facing these situations need correct information and advice. They need assistance.”

An LPP will help fill in that gap — assisting clients outside of the courtroom by filling out forms, representing clients in mediated negotiations or preparing settlements.

“[But] there is a limit,” appellate court administrator Timothy Shea told the judicial council. “And that is essentially the courtroom door. An LPP cannot represent someone in the courtroom.”

This means the paraprofessional cannot present evidence inside a courtroom, question witnesses or make arguments before a judge. LPPs will be required to have a certain amount of education, according to the report. They will be required to have either a law degree or an associate degree with a paralegal certificate. They will also need to be experienced as a paralegal and complete further courses in their practice area.

The Utah State Bar would oversee licensing and disciplinary concerns for the newly formed program, according to the report. Spokesman Sean Toomey said Monday that the bar is pleased with how quickly the Supreme Court task force issued its report and “looks forward to considering its recommendations.”

From Leonard Burningham: 2015 Food & Clothing Drive Reminder

Dear Members of the Bar:

LWB_Thanksgiving_Photo     With this year being the 26th anniversary of our Food and Clothing Drive, I decided to spend Wednesday, November 25th, Thanksgiving eve and into the early part of Thanksgiving morning, on the street with the homeless. The experience indelibly etched me with so many different feelings and thoughts that I would like to share with you with the  hope that they will inspire increased participation in this year’s drive, the drop date of which is December 18, 2015, at the loading dock of the Utah Law and Justice Center.  Starting about three weeks earlier, I commenced the growing of a full and untrimmed beard.  I did not bathe for the final two days and used the long johns I had skied in the previous weekend; and I also used other clothing that I had previously worn and that had not been washed with a detergent.  I had an old backpack that contained one blanket, about a foot of floss, two antacid tablets and one of those miniature Tabasco bottles; this was all I could think of when I was leaving the house, and why the Tabasco bottle, who knows-maybe so I could use the antacid tablets.  Anyway, as I walked towards town, I thought about things like finding bathrooms, how to fit in, how I would be treated, and even my own safety, along with how cold the ground might be to sleep on.  It was raining by the time I arrived at Trolley Square, so I thought I would see how I was received there, and if there was a public restroom.  I had no issues with anyone, used the restroom and had a short conversation with a young man under the overhang of the building outside and out of the rain; the conservation was about the strange contraption he was using that turned out to be some kind of an electronic cigarette machine filled with oil-interesting, but kind of like carrying a small pistol around in your hand.  I continued walking downtown, donned a garbage bag that I poked holes for my head and arms, to keep dry, and went straight to the Rescue Mission. There were only a few people standing outside, and there were a few covered in blankets under the front stair case.  I walked in and was greeted directly, and asked if I could stay the night if I had no place to sleep; I was told that I could and that registration was from 5:50 pm to 6:00 pm (it was about 4:00 pm when I arrived), though I had no intention of taking someone’s bed.  From there, I proceeded through Pioneer Park, and was surprised to see only a few people who were sitting or lying on the ground with blankets, along with a few others who were just walking through the park or on the sidewalk.  I then walked the three or so blocks to The Road Home and the St. Vincent Catholic Community Center (across from each other at the south end of the Gateway Mall on 200 South and 500 West.  Both blocks were filled with about 200 people, many lying on the streets with or without blankets and most not properly clothed for the cold weather; the largest group was up against the wall at St. Vincent’s.  This kind of sets the stage.  During the evening and into the night, I walked to and from these shelters and the Rescue Mission and ventured along 100 South to 500 South and as far into the city as State Street, and in and out of Pioneer Park.

In The News – Utah Bar in Above the Law Article

Were We Wrong About This Law Firm? Probably, Yeah.

Gavel with American FlagAs some of you know, I attended the Utah State Bar Association’s Fall Forum a couple weeks back and regaled the crowd with advice on avoiding the pages of ATL. Or at least staying out of ATL for being this guy. Beyond that, Utah’s strict decency codes prevent me from discussing the speech further, but suffice it to say the whole affair ended with a drunk lawyer in a trash can, so a good time was had by all.

At the annual Utah Minority Bar Association gala, also held that week, the organization bestowed its Law Firm of the Year award upon Open Legal Services, a firm founded a mere two years ago committed to providing affordable legal services to underserved clients in Utah through a “Low Bono” model charging clients on a sliding scale based on household income. Formed by a pair of young attorneys and a dream, the firm just hired its seventh associate and is tackling an ever-increasing amount of the legal work for the majority — 51 percent — of Utah too rich to qualify for pro bono services and too poor to hire traditional private practitioners.

That’s when it struck me that Open Legal Services had already made its way into the pages of ATL like all those people I was lecturing about. A little over a year ago, in fact, columnist Keith Lee took issue with Open Legal Services because its founders came into their practice only a year out of law school — experience that Lee found wanting:

Perhaps the second largest problem facing new lawyers, outside of unemployment, is a lack of practical education on how to actually be a lawyer. While there are all sorts of suggestions on how to address this lack of real-world education, none of them are particularly good. And while something like OLS might be able to address this deficit, OLS does not. On the OLS website there is a lot of talk about “revolution,” but not much about the background or experience of the attorneys who make up OLS. A brief search on the Utah State Bar’s website shows that Argyle and Spencer were both admitted in October of 2013. They have been practicing for less than a year. Perhaps they focused on public service in law school. Maybe they summered at a public defenders’ office. But as it stands now, there is no way to tell. And even if they had, such experiences are no substitute for actually learning the practice of law under the guidance of an experienced lawyer.

Certainly a valid concern, but was it really a disqualifying one? As one commenter noted at the time:

Totally unfair and uncalled for to presume that people doing this firm are somehow not competent. It’s quite an accusation, and quite baseless.

As others have noted, there are tons of attorneys out there who boast about how many “years of experience” they have and are sloppy, unreliable, and clueless. There are plenty of new attorneys that are sharp, dedicated and willing to put in long hours to get things right.

Op-ed: 800 years ago, Magna Carta was the start of rule by law

By James D. Gilson


Eight hundred years ago on June 15, 1215, King John and a group of rebellious barons met on a grassy meadow at Runnymede, England, to forge an accord to avert civil war. Although the agreement failed to prevent conflict, clauses in the document, eventually known as Magna Carta (the Great Charter), became the first significant step in a process of guaranteeing constitutional freedoms that continues today:

39. No free man will be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

40. We will not sell, or deny, or delay right or justice to anyone.

American colonists embedded principles of Magna Carta into state laws and later into the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment provision that “no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” descends from Magna Carta.

The rule of law today still insists that laws govern our society, as opposed to arbitrary decisions by individual government officials. For this to work, the process by which our laws are enacted by the legislature, administered by the executive branch, and interpreted by the courts, must be accessible and efficient and done in accordance with established law. Justice — the proper application of the rule of law — requires informed and ethical citizens and leaders who are committed to the bedrock principle that the law rules.

If “We the People” neglect our understanding and commitment to the rule of law, we risk having our essential rights eroded. We contribute to strengthening the rule of law by learning and complying with our legal obligations, working within our legal system for appropriate reforms, and enforcing our legal rights.

Lawyers of the Utah State Bar are committed to support and defend the rule of law, and particularly support the independent judicial branch of our government. Keeping the judiciary independent of political or popular pressure, and of private interest, helps ensure that every person has a fair opportunity to make their case in court before an impartial judge, and to ensure constitutional and other legal rights.

Constitutional rights are protected in part through judicial interpretation of the law. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Gideon v. Wainwright secured the right to counsel for indigent criminal defendants unable to afford legal representation in felony cases. The decision was grounded in the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, which guarantees criminal defendants “the assistance of counsel.” The court decided assistance of legal counsel is essential for a defendant to be treated fairly when faced with serious criminal charges.

There is no constitutional guarantee of counsel in civil cases. Through its pro bono and modest means lawyer referral programs, the Utah State Bar is working hard to help more people have access to an attorney. See for more details. Also see about our Magna Carta essay competition for eighth through twelfth graders (with scholarship prizes up to $500). You can also find details of the Bar’s statewide traveling exhibit about Magna Carta. The tour begins with an open house at the Utah State Bar (645 S. 200 East) on April 3, 4-6 p.m. Please join the celebration of Magna Carta and the rule of law.

Utah woman posed as lawyer, defended client, cops say

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah – Authorities in Utah say a woman impersonated an attorney and even went as far as defending a client and signing court documents, reports CBS affiliate KUTV.

Karla Carbo, 29, was arrested Tuesday in Summit County and charged with identity theft, forgery and communications fraud.

Authorities say Carbo assumed the identity of a legitimate attorney with a similar name and used the attorney’s Utah State Bar identification number, reports the station.

Officials say Carbo impersonated the lawyer on Dec. 23 when she appeared in the Third District Court of Summit County to represent a suspect in a 2008 criminal case, according to the station.

It wasn’t until after the case was completed that authorities received a call from the state bar association saying that Carbo was not a real attorney. She was booked into the Summit County Jail on $25,000 cash bail.

The attorney whose name Carbo allegedly assumed is in good standing with the bar association and is not associated with the fraud, authorities say, reports the station.

© 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Utah State Bar Warns Citizens of Scam Artist Acting as Attorney

Unsuspecting clients fall victim to fraud.

Mary Ann Lucero / Dipoma courtesy Salt Lake County

Mary Ann Lucero / Dipoma courtesy Salt Lake County

Imagine someone impersonating an attorney helping you obtain proceeds from your spouse’s life insurance policy only to have your “attorney” steal the proceeds.  Envision paying for help with a foreclosure only to lose your home to the person who was purporting to help you.  At least these people retained their freedom; one man in jail lost $850 that his mother paid for legal assistance that never materialized.  These unfortunate victims have one thing in common:  Mary Ann Lucero, also know as Mary Ann Dipoma, who is not an attorney, but operates under the name of Wasatch Legal and Collection Services.

Other News Sources:


On October 29, 2014, Third District Court Judge Kennedy issued a bench warrant for her arrest, ordering her to spend 210 days in jail and pay $13,000 in fines for violating an order prohibiting her from practicing law without a license.  Anyone aware of Lucero/Dipoma’s whereabouts should contact the Utah State Bar at 801-531-9077 or

“Only persons who are active, licensed members of the Bar in good standing may engage in the practice of law in Utah” says Sarah Spencer, who, along with Jonathan Rupp, co-chairs the Utah State Bar’s Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law.  The committee is comprised of volunteer Utah attorneys who investigate complaints that non-attorneys are engaging in the practice of law.  Spencer notes that “licensed attorneys are initially tested for skill and character, they commit to ethics rules, and they continue to develop competency through education, resulting in a profession that serves the community.”

Before engaging someone who purports to be an attorney, please confirm their status by calling the Bar or visiting

According to Co-chair Rupp, immigrants are often the targets of this fraud scheme.  “In Latin American counties,” he observes, “notary publics are attorneys, so it is easy to confuse those new to this country about who can practice law and who can be an immigration consultant.”  Utah is one of five states that allow people to work as immigration consultants without a law degree, but registration with Utah’s Office of Consumer Protection is required for non-attorneys.   To verify registration, call 801-530-6601 and press zero or visit and select the green Search Registered Entities on the left.

Utah State Bar President James Gilson says that, “The Bar has many programs to assist people who may not be able to afford an attorney, who have limited funds, or who are unfamiliar with the legal process.”  The Tuesday Night Bar provides a free half-hour consultation with an attorney most Tuesdays.  The Bar also offers a lawyer-referral service for qualifying clients (with incomes of up to $70,000 for a family of four) for discounted rates of up to $50 or $75 an hour;

The Utah State Bar was established in 1931 and regulates the practice of law under the authority of the Utah Supreme Court.  The 11,500 lawyers of the Bar serve the public and legal profession with excellence, civility, and integrity.  They envision a just legal system that is understood, valued, and accessible to all.  Visit for more information on the Bar and the programs described above.

President-Elect Angelina Tsu named to NAPABA Best Under 40 List

Utah State Bar President-elect Angelina Tsu One of the Best Lawyers Under 40

 National Asian Pacific American Bar Association recognizes 21 attorneys in U.S.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) has selected 21 attorneys to receive the 2014 Best Lawyers Under 40 Award, including Utah State Bar President-elect Angelina Tsu.  The award recognizes talented individuals who have achieved prominence and distinction in their respective fields while demonstrating a strong commitment to the community at relatively early stages in their careers.

Angelina Tsu, who has served on the Utah State Bar Board of Commissioners since 2010, was sworn in as president-elect in July.  She co-chaired the Bar’s Committee for Civics Education and served as President of the Young Lawyers Division.  She currently serves on the Boards of Women Lawyers of Utah, the Association of Corporate Counsel (Mountain West Division), and the Utah Minority Bar Foundation.  She is a member of the Merit Selection Panel, which is the judicial nominating commission for Federal Magistrate Judges.

Tsu is Vice President and Legal Counsel at Zions Bancorporation.  Prior to joining Zions, she practiced with the law firm of Ray Quinney & Nebeker and served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Dee V. Benson of the United States District Court for the District of Utah.

Utah State Bar President James Gilson said that “The young lawyers of the Bar represent the future of the profession, and I am very pleased that Angelina has been recognized for her contributions.  She has provided great service to the Utah Bar.”

The NAPABA stated that “This year’s honorees have vast and varied experiences – founding their own law firms, trying and winning major cases, representing Fortune 100 companies, combating human trafficking, and advocating to protect the civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans.”  The award will be presented on November 8, 2014, during its annual convention in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Utah State Bar was established in 1931 and regulates the practice of law under the authority of the Utah Supreme Court.  The 11,500 lawyers of the Bar serve the public and legal profession with excellence, civility, and integrity.  They envision a just legal system that is understood, valued, and accessible to all.  Visit for more information.

Sean Toomey, Communications Director
Utah State Bar, Lawyers working for justice.
645 South 200 East, Salt Lake City, UT84111 801-297-7059


2014 Constitution Day Reflections

“An attorney’s work must be pretty cool.”
–Reflections of a fourth-grader on Constitution Day.

This fourth-grader’s perspective on being an attorney resulted from the Constitution

2014 Constitution Day Cinderella Testifies

Cinderella Testifies

Teach-in by 200 judges, lawyers, law students, and law school staff in celebration of the 225th anniversary of the U. S. Constitution.  The volunteer instructors taught 300 classes throughout Utah on and around Constitution Day, September 17.

This was the third year of the teach-in sponsored by the

The Glass Slipper

The Glass Slipper

Bar’s Civics Education Committee.  Co-chair Benson Hathaway said, “We are so pleased that the number of volunteers increased by one-third and that they taught half again as many classes as last year.  We’re looking forward to our biggest year yet in 2015, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta—the world’s most enduring symbol of the rule of law.”

Volunteers used lesson plans developed by the committee, included mock trials (Cinderella vs. the Step Sisters for elementary schools) or employed their creativity (one volunteer administered the test required for citizenship).

Constitution Day on the Hill

Lt. Governor Cox congratulates Hawthorne 3rd graders
for their recitation of the Preamble on Constitution Day

Teachers had these comments about the classes:

“My instructor brought a replica of the constitution and played a very fun game with the students. The students were engaged the entire time and even stayed after to talk to him. I would have him come back every year.”

“It got the students thinking about the rule of law and their personal responsibility to uphold the law.”

“My class enjoyed the instructor so much they wrote an article for the school paper about how they celebrated Constitution Day.”

“My students absolutely loved this! One class had a lawyer do the simulation and my

Constitution Day - Thank-you note to Kent Hansen

Thank-you note to Kent Hansen

other class had a lawyer do more of a lecture. Both were very enlightening for the students, and when I asked them about it during the next class they remembered a surprising amount. I will definitely use this again next year.”

“My students loved the mock trial. They learned so much about procedure and about the law.”

“I think it is great that we are getting professionals into the classrooms; students need to meet and get to know real people who work in these fields.”

“I really liked how the attorney who talked to my class gave the students great examples of how checks and balances work and about some of the responsibilities of each branch of government.”

“We loved it!!!”

And the volunteers seemed to enjoy it as much as the kids:

“The students were wonderful.  They were bright and eager to participate.  We had a lot of fun, even when the discussion got heated.  There were no disciplinary issues.  I enjoyed spending time in the classroom with them.”

“I look forward to this more than any other Bar-sponsored event during the year.  Please keep it going.”

“Teaching the classes is a hoot.  I have enjoyed nudging the kids with good, fun history about the Constitution and America.  Great interactions.  Much fun.”

Constitution Day Case Closed

Case Closed

Bar President Jim Gilson said “We plan on continuing this important dialogue about the rule of law with Utah students by sponsoring Magna Carta essay and video contests.  We will present student awards at the traveling exhibit Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy 1215-2015 as it makes stops throughout Utah.”  The exhibit includes images of documents, books, and other objects from Library of Congress collections that illustrate Magna Carta’s influence throughout the centuries and explain the document’s history.  See for details.

Former Utah Bar President Lori Nelson Appointed Chair of ABA Family Law Section


Jones Waldo’s Lori Nelson Appointed Chair of  American Bar Association Family Law Section

on .

Former Utah Bar President Lori Nelson

Former Utah Bar President Lori Nelson

Lori W. Nelson, a veteran litigator with Salt Lake City-based Jones Waldo, was sworn in last month as the incoming chair of the American Bar Association Family Law Section.

In this role, Nelson will oversee the association’s governing body  and more than 10,000 lawyers, associates and student members throughout the world.

Nelson, a Driggs, Idaho native, has practiced domestic law with Jones Waldo for the last eight years. While with the firm, Nelson has held leadership positions on the Jones Waldo board of directors, and is the group leader of the firm’s Domestic and Family Law practice group.

“It is humbling to be selected by my respected peers of the American Bar Association Family Law Section, who work with passion and integrity everyday,” Nelson said. “I truly believe in the nobility of the profession and the cause for which we serve. I look forward to representing the Family Law Section in the most honorable and innovative way.”

Nelson has been a member of the American Bar Association Family Law Section for 18 years and began her service on the counsel as the region 5 representative, encompassing Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Nelson served in leadership positions on several committees, including CLE, and co-chaired CLE prior to being elected as secretary. Members of the Family Law Section are professionals who passionately serve famly law in areas of adoption, divorce, custody, military law, alternative families and elder law.

“Lori has proven herself to be a trusted leader among the attorneys and associates at Jones Waldo, and in the Utah legal community. We are confident she will do the same in her American Bar Association leadership position,” said Keven Rowe, firm president. “Her appointment is a tremendous accomplishment and honor to our firm, and we could not be more proud to have her represent our firm in this national role.”

Nelson’s involvement with professional organizations and advocacy groups demonstrates her strong passion for domestic law. She is a member of the Collaborative Family Lawyers of Utah, and has served on the Needs of Children Committee, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake. As a member of the Utah State Bar, she served as president for the 2012-2013 year.  Nelson received her juris doctor from the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law.

SJQuinney Law School: An Interview with Utah Bar President James Gilson

Source: – Posted on 

James Gilson, ’89, is the current president of the Utah State Bar. In the interview below, he describes the bar’s current activities, reflects on how legal education has changed in the past 25 years, and offers practical advice to young attorneys, including the importance of putting the client’s best interests first.

What inspired you to run for office?  

Time will tell if it was an inspired or a bad idea, but so far so good!  Throughout my career I have enjoyed being involved in pro bono and other volunteer community work to help me keep grounded in my practice–to keep perspective on what’s really important.  I’ve found that interacting with other lawyers on Bar or other community matters on a win/win, non-adversarial basis provides satisfaction and hopefully we’ve done some good.  Bar service is a good anecdote to becoming cynical.  Back in 2008, there were two openings on the Bar Commission and I decided to run for one of the seats.  After being on the Commission for five years, and realizing I was one of the more senior members, I decided it was my turn to step up to the plate as President.  No one opposed me in that election.  I like to think that I won by acclamation, but it probably was more by default.

What is the Bar doing well?  What could it do better?

The Utah State Bar does a lot of things very well.  In fact, some of our programs have served as models for other state Bars.  The Bar’s New Lawyer Training Program, which matches experienced attorneys to serve as mentors to first year attorneys, has been very successful and beneficial to the participants, the profession, and the public.

The Bar’s Pro Bono and Modest Means Client Referral programs are also fairly recent initiatives that have helped hundreds of people get the benefit of a lawyer to navigate through the justice system.  Those two access-to-justice programs need to be expanded and taken to the next level to reach even more people who need legal services.

I believe the Bar’s continuing legal education programs are usually very well done and are reasonably priced.   We need to do a better job in getting more lawyers to take advantage of these offerings. A lot of time and effort goes into the Spring and Summer Conventions, and the Fall Forum, and most of the lawyers who attend give those conventions high marks.  I hope even more lawyers will take advantage of those opportunities—to not only get good CLE, but to network with colleagues and judges.

How has the law practice changed since you graduated in 1989?

Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet when I started practicing law.   I communicated by letters, faxes, and phone calls in the early 90s.  Today, of course, most communications are through e-mails and, to a lesser extent, phone calls.  Rarely do I send a letter.  It’s been years since I’ve sent a fax.  Technology has made a huge difference in the day-to-day work we do.  Court filings are by e-mail instead of paper filings.  Instead of looking through boxes and boxes of paper files in discovery, files are produced and reviewed electronically.  Clients have come to expect almost instant responses, in writing, to their questions.  Technology enables us to accomplish a lot more work in less time, but I think the stress level has increased commensurately.  Also, I believe that clients have come to expect lawyers to deliver their services, not only faster, but less expensively.   Due to the Internet, clients have many other sources for information about “the law” without contacting a lawyer.   Some clients think that they can, in effect, practice law themselves due to the amount of information and legal forms that are available on-line, often for free or at very low cost.  The challenge for lawyers today is to demonstrate that we do add real value to solving clients’ problems and helping with their significant transactions.   Before the Internet, clients trusted and relied upon lawyers more because they had fewer alternatives.  Having the benefit of a lawyer’s customized advice is still the best course of action when faced with a complicated legal issue.  Nowadays lawyers need to continually prove to clients that we are worth the added cost.

Utah State Bar’s lawyer referral program a ‘win-win’ for people of modest means

Courtesy of Deseret News

By , Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Bar has long championed broader access to the justice system.

Its “aspirational goal” is that each lawyer licensed to practice in Utah donates 50 hours of pro bono representation a year, says Utah State Bar president James D. Gilson.

“If someone has a legal problem and they can’t afford to hire a lawyer, they’re at a real disadvantage in the system. We think that lawyers who have law licenses have an ethical duty to provide pro bono legal representation,” Gilson said.

While the Bar doesn’t police that expectation, Gilson said most lawyers meet that goal. “A lot of them do a lot more than 50 hours a year,” he said.

Even with that expectation, a Legal Defender system that provides free legal assistance to indigent defendants facing felony charges and nonprofit community law offices that serve very low-income people on civil matters free of charge, the Bar is keenly aware of the significant unmet legal needs of people who don’t quality for free legal assistance and can’t afford fees charged by law firms, Gilson said.

That was the impetus for the Utah Bar’s Modest Means Lawyer Referral program, which helps people with modest incomes and assets obtain legal help at discounted rates. There is a $25 application fee. People who qualify are referred to lawyers who charge $50 to $75 an hour or a flat fee for certain services.

The program is intended for people who make from 125 percent to 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Lawyers who participate in the program can provide full representation or offer limited-scope representation, which can include appearing in court on behalf of a client at a critical hearing or reviewing documents the client has created.

“The Modest Means program is exciting because it’s a real win-win for lawyers who are trying to develop a practice and clients who can’t afford to pay standard hourly rates,” Gilson said.

Young, less experienced lawyers are assisted by an advisory panel. Participating attorneys are also paired with a mentor for an entire year.

Some of the 200 participating lawyers include seasoned attorneys who have elected to participate in the modest means program because they are seeking a way to give back while still receiving some income.

The program offers assistance in a wide array of legal matters including family law, adoption, bankruptcy, criminal law, landlord-tenant issues and consumer law among others.

Modest Means does not handle personal injury, immigration, contract writing or claims in federal court. A full listing is available on the bar’s website.

Gilson said the legal system has become so complex “that it’s very difficult for someone who doesn’t have a law degree to represent themselves.”

That’s where the Modest Means program can help. When people are represented by counsel, their rights are better protected and courts operate more efficiently, he said.

“If you have two unrepresented parties, the judge, in effect, has to educate the parties what the law is. That’s not a role a judge should be performing,” he said.


Utah State Bar 2014 Summer Convention Awards

Courtesy of The Intermountain Commercial Record, Friday, July 18, 2014

Judges and attorneys of the Utah State Bar assembled for its annual convention in Snowmass Village, Colorado on July 16 through 19. Meeting concurrent with the convention was the Utah Board of Bar Commissioners, the Utah Judicial Council, the Board of District Court Judges, and the Board of Juvenile Court Judges. The convention included reports from the judiciary and law schools, keynote speakers, continuing legal education breakout sessions, and awards.

Utah State Bar President Curtis Jensen said, “These award recipients help the Bar serve the public and legal profession with excellence, civility, and integrity. They are helping the Bar to meet its vision of a just legal system that is understood, valued, and accessible to all.”

Judge James L. Shumate, Judge of the Year

2014_Schumate_JOTYJudge James L. Shumate was appointed to the Fifth Circuit Court in January 1991 by Governor Norman H. Bangerter. He became a district court judge in January 1992 and serves Beaver, Iron, and Washington Counties. He received a law degree from the University of Utah College of Law in 1975. He was Iron County attorney from 1979 to 1982. Judge Shumate is a past member of the Governor’s Substance Abuse and Anti-Violence Coordinating Council. He worked on the formation of the Washington County Domestic Violence Coalition. Judge Shumate presided over the creation of the Washington County Drug Court and managed the Drug Court calendar in the District Court for Washington County for over 13 years. He served as the Presiding Judge of the Fifth District on three different occasions. Judge Shumate retired from active service on March 31, 2014, and assumed Senior Judge status after 23 years on the Bench. He is married to Cherie N. Shumate, RPh. They are the parents of 3 sons and the grandparents of 7.

Charlotte L. Miller, Lawyer of the Year

2014_Miller_AOTYCharlotte L. Miller is the Senior Vice President of People & Great Work at O. C. Tanner Company, where she leads the human resource team and other support teams, and serves as assistant general counsel. Ms. Miller has practiced law for over thirty years covering a wide variety of areas based on her clients’ needs. She began her legal career as a clerk for Utah Supreme Court Justice I. Daniel Stewart. After her clerkship, she joined the law firm of Moyle & Draper where she represented J. B.’s Restaurants, Inc., in expanding its business through real estate purchases and business acquisitions. The President and CEO of JB’s invited her to become in-house general counsel and a member of the executive team. At JB’s she provided business advice and legal expertise in securities, real estate, franchising, personal injury, insurance, employment and a variety of other areas. Ms. Miller was key in the merger of JB’s (which became Summit) with CKE Restaurants, and continued with CKE for a time following the merger. Later, Ms. Miller joined Iomega Corporation as its Director of Global Litigation. As a member of Iomega’s legal team, she provided assistance to leaders on intellectual property disputes, FTC issues, benefits, stock options and employment law. The CEO of Iomega requested Charlotte lead the Global Human Resource Team and serve as a member of the Executive team. During her career, Ms. Miller has been a partner at the law firm of Watkiss & Saperstein, and was Of Counsel with Kirton & McConkie. Ms. Miller joined O. C. Tanner Company in 2010. Prior to attending law school, Ms. Miller worked as a night typist at Parsons Behle and Latimer and then became the firm’s first paralegal. She reports that one of her earliest contributions to the Utah legal profession was researching the benefits of changing from legal size to letter size paper.

Bar President Curtis Jensen Applauds Utah Attorneys’ pro bono Efforts

“I think that one of the things that we have tried to stay on top of is access to justice and making the Pro Bono program more accessible through all of the courts here in Utah.”

Alicia Knight Cunningham, Esq.
The Record, May 30, 2014

Curtis Jensen, current President of the Utah State Bar, is closing out the last few months of his term and looking back at a year that passed too quickly.

“I have really enjoyed it all,” Jensen said. “Serving in this position has given me the opportunity and pleasure to meet so many wonderful people. I have had the chance to meet with lawyers throughout the state of Utah and in other states that I would have never had the privilege to do otherwise.”

Jensen is proud of the level of commitment lawyers in the state have to serving the people of Utah. “We have great lawyers, and they are doing a lot of good in the state.” By expanding access to legal services in the State of Utah and also watching out for new attorneys joining the Bar, Jensen believes that the last year has been very productive.

Pro Bono Program

Jensen is particularly proud of the growth of the Pro Bono program through the Utah State Bar.

“I think that one of the things that we have tried to stay on top of is access to justice and making the Pro Bono program more accessible through all of the courts here in Utah. We are helping people that have needs, especially in domestic and family court issues. They need advocates on their behalf, and we are able to provide this for free: no fees, no charges. We are also providing legal clinics from St. George to Logan. Through these services, lawyers are volunteering and sharing their skills and serving the people of Utah,” Jensen said.

Modest Means Program

The Utah State Bar has also expanded its Modest Means Program. “This program helps people who qualify based on their annual income anywhere in the State with their legal needs,” Jensen said. Clients who qualify are charged a discounted rate of $50 or $75 an hour, or they could also be charged a flat fee.

“Our Modest Means Program has been a priority,” Jensen said. “There is a great need in the state for legal services, and we also have underemployed attorneys who can provide those services and gain that experience. We have recently conducted a survey looking at the employment status of our members. We recognize that there are recent graduates who are still looking for jobs or trying to build up their own book of business, and we are mindful of those attorneys, and we are looking for ways we can serve them better.”

Mentoring Program

The Utah State Bar started a mentoring program in 2009. This program, known as the Utah New Lawyer Training Program (NLTP), matches new lawyers with experienced lawyers for one-on-one guidance. NLTP is mandatory for all new, active bar members who have not practiced in another jurisdiction for at least 2 years.

“We continue to promote our mentoring program, and it has been recognized nationally by the American Bar Association. Several states have also consulted with us in order to learn how they can implement similar programs,” Jensen said.


In The News SLTrib OpEd Utah lawyer discipline balances individual rights, public responsibility

By Curtis M. Jensen and Terri McIntosh

First Published SLTrib Mar 03 2014 04:54 pm • Last Updated Mar 03 2014 04:54 pm

In response to recent concerns about how attorney discipline is handled, we would like to explain how the legal profession helps to ensure that lawyers in Utah practice in an ethical manner.

The Utah Constitution gives the Utah Supreme Court the responsibility to regulate the practice of law. The Utah State Bar was established in 1931 under the authority of the Utah Supreme Court to fulfill that responsibility, which includes licensing attorneys, providing continuing legal education and, when necessary, seeking the imposition of discipline.

Attorneys must pass an ethics exam and a character and fitness review before taking the Bar Exam. Once they have been admitted to practice, attorneys are required to follow the Utah Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Conduct (also known as the ethics rules). In addition to following the ethics rules, Utah attorneys are subject to rules of civility and professionalism. And, of course, all attorneys are subject to the same laws and enjoy the same rights as every citizen.

The Utah Supreme Court monitors compliance with the ethics rules through the Office of Professional Conduct (OPC), which, although it is funded by Bar dues paid by attorneys, is independent of the Bar and its board of governance. The OPC reviews and investigates allegations of attorney misconduct to determine if there are grounds for discipline; the OPC also helps educate attorneys on the nuances of complying with the ethics rules.

The OPC uses the procedures established by the Utah Supreme Court’s Rules of Lawyer Discipline and Disability. The Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions are used to impose any sanction following a determination that an attorney has violated the ethics rules.

In the attorney discipline system, the OPC acts as prosecutor. The adjudicator is, initially, the Utah Supreme Court’s Ethics and Discipline Committee, which includes lawyer and non-lawyer volunteers. The committee holds screening panel hearings (somewhat similar to probable cause hearings), and if it determines that the ethics rules have been violated, it has the authority to issue private admonitions or public reprimands. If more serious discipline appears to be warranted, the committee can direct the OPC to initiate a civil suit in district court.

Potential ethics rules violations are most often brought to the OPC’s attention by a complainant, but the OPC can also initiate complaints from knowledge it obtains through media stories, court findings and other sources.

The Utah Supreme Court rules direct the OPC and the complainant to maintain confidentiality. This protects accused attorneys from frivolous complaints. Following this rule, the public will not hear about the OPC initiating a complaint, investigating an issue, or preparing for a screening panel hearing. There should be no public announcement until the committee orders a public reprimand to be issued or a civil suit is filed.

When an attorney is the subject of an investigation by another entity, or is being criminally prosecuted, the OPC may choose to wait until those proceedings are concluded before holding a screening panel hearing. Such an approach may save resources, avoids duplicating efforts and enhances respondent participation (people may be reluctant to risk incriminating themselves while criminal charges are pending). The rules also allow a lawyer to request that a complaint be put on hold while other proceedings based on the same alleged conduct unfold.