Summit County prosecutor nominated for 3rd District Court judicial vacancy
Each time there has been a vacancy in the 3rd District Court during the last several years, Summit County Prosecutor Matt Bates has submitted an application.
Bates unsuccessfully applied for a seat on the bench in 2011 and again in 2015. However, his name had not been selected as a nominee by the Judicial Nominating Commission until his latest application.
According to the state’s Office of the Governor, Bates was recently selected as one of five nominees to replace retiring Judge Charlene Barlow. Barlow’s retirement will go into effect July 1, 2016. The 3rd Judicial District includes Salt Lake, Summit and Tooele counties.
"It is really common for someone like me to apply several times before you finally get through or maybe you never get through," Bates said in an interview with The Park Record. "It’s a process, but I’m making progress in it."
Bates recently passed the five-year mark in Summit County. He previously worked in the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and the Utah Attorney General’s Office. He received his law degree from Brigham Young University.
As a prosecutor, Bates said he is in a unique position because his job is "not to seek a conviction, but to seek justice and to see that the right thing is done in the case."
"When you are an attorney you have a client and your job is to be loyal and advocate for that client," Bates said. "As a prosecutor, my client is the state of Utah and I have spent a lot of time pouring over the facts and trying to look at it from a neutral eye to determine if filing criminal charges is the right thing to do.
"I have 13 years worth of experience doing what judges do a lot of in terms of looking at cases impartially and neutrally to determine whether there was a crime," Bates said.
If nominated to the position, Bates would be given a caseload that would include criminal and civil matters. Beyond that, Bates said he would be part of administering the judiciary as a whole.
"This is an opportunity to continue work from inside the judiciary where I can have a little more influence to make our judicial system great," Bates said. "I have always worked in the public sector and have found that there is just an enormous amount of satisfaction in serving the public and doing the things that you can do to help people, whether its victims or helping defendants be held accountable."
During his tenure as a prosecutor, Bates helped establish the county’s drug court program. He has also been working with the Sheriff’s Office and others on the state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
"I have a great love for our judicial system," Bates said. "I think it is the best in the world and I have worked tirelessly to help improve the system in Summit County."
While Bates said he is "excited and I think it is great to make it this far," he emphasized that there is still a lengthy process to endure before a nominee is chosen. Written comments are currently being accepted by the Judicial Nominating Commission until April 21. After the comment period ends, the governor will have 30 days to make an appointment. His selection must then be confirmed by the Utah Senate.
"I’m excited and I think it is great, but I’m not running out tooting my horn and posting it on Facebook. I know there is still a ways to go through this so I try not to count my chickens before they hatch," Bates said. "But this is something I have pursued for a while. I love what I do in Summit County and would be happy to stay here and finish my career. This is also an opportunity that I can’t pass up when it comes along. If there is a vacancy I will put in for it."
Written comments can be submitted until noon on April 21 to the 3rd District Judicial Nominating Commission Chair Jack Wixom at firstname.lastname@example.org or Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, P.O. Box 142330, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2330.
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