After ‘grueling’ hearing, judge passes first test |

After ‘grueling’ hearing, judge passes first test

A Senate judicial committee Wednesday voted 3-2 to recommend 3rd District Court Judge Robert Hilder for a Utah Court of Appeals post.

The narrow margin saw Republican Senators Chris Buttars and Michael Waddoups vote against Hilder. Members of the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee who supported Hilder included Republicans Greg Bell and Lyle Hillyard, and Democrat Mike Dmitrich.

The full Senate must still approve Hilder’s confirmation and is expected to vote Nov. 19.

Two-day confirmation hearings like Hilder’s, which began with a roughly four-hour session Nov. 7, are uncommon, Waddoups explained in a telephone interview.

"Usually they’re resolved in one afternoon or one morning," Waddoups said.

Hilder is a Snyderville Basin resident whose judicial career has included several high-profile cases in Summit County including the 2001 sentencing of Paul Wayment to jail for pleading no contest to the negligent death of his toddler son during a hunting expedition.

The case drew national attention after Wayment committed suicide before reporting to jail.

"You would find some tragic and some uplifting cases in the life of any trial judge," Hilder told The Park Record. "Our work is the work of humanity and I know that sounds kind of sappy, but it’s true."

But Hilder irked some state lawmakers when in 2003 he ruled in favor of a University of Utah ban of guns on campus.

"Some of the reports we’ve got about him is that he’s the best judge in the 3rd District," Sen. Waddoups said in a telephone interview. "Other reports we’ve got about him are that he makes decisions that impact people’s lives by making mistakes, such as the Turner situation and the gun issue and others that were discussed."

Natalie Turner was shot to death by police after allegedly shooting her ex-husband at his Wasatch County home and fleeing with the injured man and her boyfriend on State Road 248. Hilder was asked about his handling of the child custody case in Summit County that ended with Turner’s death near Park City Aug. 8, 2003.

David Turner, the woman’s father, blames the death of his daughter on decisions Hilder made in the divorce case. Turner asked the confirmation committee to oppose nomination of the judge to the Court of Appeals.

"I had predicted to my family that the vote would go just like it did," Turner said Friday about the split decision.

But Turner shouldn’t blame Hilder for his daughter’s death, Summit County Attorney David Brickey said.

"That’s just not fair," Brickey said. "To hold Judge Hilder responsible for her death is just ludicrous."

Brickey praised Hilder for having thick skin.

"He has taught me that you have to consider that people may be really unhappy with your decision and you still have to keep moving forward," Brickey said.

Hilder has served in the 3rd District Court in Summit and Salt Lake counties since 1995. Today he presides over roughly 20 percent of the civil lawsuits filed in Summit County, often involving complicated disputes over land use and water rights.

"We have people with substantial assets and the ability, generally, to spend money on litigation and pursuing their objectives," Hilder said about cases in Park City and the Snyderville Basin. "Summit County people don’t quit and I say that respectfully. Of course, that attracts some of the best lawyers."

An attorney in Park City, Joe Wrona said he has been in front of Hilder many times.

"I have found Judge Hilder to be uniquely talented and skilled at managing complex civil cases," Wrona said. "Put simply, he’s one of the best judges we’ve got right now I am surprised that state legislators are questioning any aspect of Judge Hilder’s judicial performance."

Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, a Vernal Republican who represents Park City, wouldn’t comment about Hilder’s possible Court of Appeals appointment when reached Friday.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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