Although he has presided over murder and rape trials, they aren't the cases that Judge Terry L. Christiansen prefers to think about as he approaches his retirement from the Third District Court bench scheduled for Oct. 1.
The cases he likes to think about are the ones when he believes he made a positive impact on the community and those community's residents -- especially the youngest and most vulnerable.
Christiansen, 65, who as Third District Court judge serves Salt Lake, Summit, and Tooele Counties, had a woman struggling with drugs in front of him once, and she turned out to be pregnant. He took a special interest in her, and did everything in his power to ensure that she would deliver a healthy, drug-free child. She did, and named her child Christian -- after the judge.
Since being appointed to the bench in 2000 by Governor Michael Leavitt, Christiansen said he has relished his time working toward making the community safer.
"It's been a phenomenal career choice," he said. "It's the best job in the world."
Christiansen has a long history of jurisprudence in Summit County. After receiving his law degree from the University of Utah in 1975, he spent 25 years as a private attorney in the county and more than two decades of experience as chief deputy Summit County Attorney and Park City prosecutor in the City Attorney's office before becoming a judge.
One thing he hadn't expected when he made the transition from attorney to judge was how pervasive drug use had become in the area.
When Christiansen retires, he doesn't want to stop working. He plans on becoming a mediator and a senior judge --- the latter kin to being a substitute teacher but in the legal system. The reduced caseload will allow him to spend more time with his four children and nine (soon to be 10) grandchildren.
Christiansen is one of five (out of 28) judges retiring from the Third District Court bench between October and January, according to Nancy Volmer, spokeswoman for Utah State Courts. Judge L.A. Dever will retire on Nov. 1, Judge John Kennedy will retire on Dec. 31, Judge Denise Posse Lindberg will retire on Jan. 1, 2015, and Judge Robin Reese will retire on Jan. 1, 2015. There will be another Third Court vacancy due to the Utah Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee appointing Judge Kate Toomey to fill a vacancy on the Court of Appeals earlier this month.
"I haven't seen this type of change in 20 years," said Summit County Attorney David Brickey.
According to a press release from the governor's spokeswoman Allyse Robertson, the nominees for Christiansen's vacancy are: Patricia S. Cassell, Assistant Division Administrator, Salt Lake District Attorney's Office; Paul C. Farr, Justice Court Judge, municipalities of Sandy and Herriman; L. Douglas Hogan, Tooele County Attorney; William K. Kendall, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, District of Utah; Kara L. Pettit, Shareholder, Snow, Christensen & Martineau.
Written comments about these nominees can be submitted to Third District Judicial Nominating Commission Chair Deirdre Straight at email@example.com or the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, P.O. Box 142330, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2330, according to the release. The deadline for written comments is 5 p.m. on Aug. 15.
The Nominating Commission may request further information or conduct an investigation of the nominees after reviewing public comments. After the public comment period, the names will be sent to Governor Gary R. Herbert, who will have 30 days to make an appointment, according to Robertson.
Governor Herbert's appointee is subject to confirmation by the Utah Senate, Robertson said.