November 22 editorial
The Utah Senate, dominated by hardliner gun-rights Republicans, cast a misguided vote this week when it denied Judge Robert Hilder’s bid for a position on the state Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals, one level removed from the state Supreme Court, would have benefited tremendously from Hilder’s wisdom and fairness. Hilder, who lives in Silver Springs, has consistently proven himself an exemplary member of the bench. His life story – son of an alcoholic father in Australia, wayward teen and, finally, focused lawyer and judge in America – is inspiring, and his background would have been welcome on the Court of Appeals.
Hilder, who rotates in and out of Summit County as a district-level judge, has admirably navigated his way through tense local cases, including the separate tragedies of the Wayment and Turner families, both of which ended in shocking deaths.
But the local cases that involved Hilder were irrelevant in the Senate this week. The senators instead were focused on Hilder’s decision in a politically charged case about guns at the University of Utah.
The judge, in our estimation, properly sided with a ban on concealed weapons on the campus. He infuriated Utah’s gun-rights zealots, however, and, apparently, doomed his chances to ascend in the judiciary. It is disappointing that senators would use a decision meant to protect college students and campus visitors as a reason to reject a judge.
The Senate vote was by a close margin, with 16 senators rejecting him and 12 voting for Hilder. Summit County’s two senators split their vote, with Republican Allen Christensen voting with the majority and Kevin Van Tassell, another Republican, casting a vote in favor of Hilder.
We are encouraged by Van Tassell’s support. The senator, whose vast district includes Park City and the Snyderville Basin, broke with the GOP on the vote. His reasoned thinking will benefit this part of his district as he continues in his government service. Christensen’s vote with the majority, though, was predictable.
Hilder, who remains on the bench as a district judge, will be welcomed in the Summit County courtroom when he rotates back to the local court. However, we would rather be congratulating him on his ascent to the Court of Appeals.
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