Summit County’s Chief Prosecutor Matt Bates vies for judgeship |

Summit County’s Chief Prosecutor Matt Bates vies for judgeship

Summit County Prosecutor Matt Bates, who is 42 years old, was recently selected from a pool of five nominees to fill a vacancy in the 3rd District Court. Final confirmation will come from the Utah Senate. (Jake Shane/Park Record)

Gov. Gary Herbert has forwarded a nomination for Summit County Prosecutor Matt Bates to fill a judicial vacancy in the 3rd District Court.

Herbert selected Bates, who is 42 years old, from a pool of five nominees to succeed retiring Judge Charlene Barlow. Her retirement will go into effect July 1.

"Matthew’s diversity of experience, paired with a keen intellect and exceptional work ethic, will make him a valuable asset to the 3rd District Court. I have every confidence that he will be an excellent judge" Herbert said in a press release.

The appointment is subject to a review and public hearing before the Utah Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee. Final confirmation would come from the full Senate.

"I am humbled by this appointment and grateful to the governor for this opportunity," Bates said in a press release. "I have spent much of my career striving to uphold the principles of our state and federal Constitutions. If confirmed, I look forward to serving the people of Utah and ensuring that our courts are fair and accessible to all."

For more than five years, Bates has served as a prosecutor in Summit County. He helped establish the county’s drug court program and has dedicated time to working with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and others on the state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

Summit County Attorney Robert Hilder said he realized Bates desired a seat on the bench. Bates unsuccessfully applied for a seat on the bench in 2011 and again in 2015.

Hilder said although Bates has primarily worked on criminal matters, he has "diverse interests, especially having worked as an appellate lawyer."

"He is something of a scholar of the law and he stays on top of it," said Hilder, a former 3rd District Court judge. "Matt knows the latest cases, how they work and how they play together. I think, in truth, the prosecutor’s role is the closest to that of being a judge than any other area."

Hilder has directed Bates for more than a year since he was elected as county attorney in 2014. He said Bates "doesn’t go for the most harsh crime or outcome," but, instead, weighs all the information to determine the best course of action.

"He is not a formula guy," Hilder said. "He looks at every side of the equation. He may say, ‘we may be able to prove it, but maybe we shouldn’t.’ He is always open to what makes sense and what will accomplish the best outcome."

When it comes to sentencing, Hilder said, Bates understands the need to look at a range of objectives and won’t impose unwarranted punishments.

"I hear Matt talk about requests in sentencing and, I think, he will in some areas impose really strong sentences," Hilder said. "He will never be a pushover, but he will look for a way to protect society and promote rehabilitation when necessary."

Before coming to Summit County, Bates worked in the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and served as both a criminal and civil appellate attorney in the Utah Attorney General’s Office. He received his law degree from Brigham Young University.

The 3rd Judicial District includes Salt Lake, Summit and Tooele counties. There are 28 judges who preside over civil and criminal cases within the district.

Written comments may be submitted to Mike Christensen at the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, Suite W210, PO Box 145210, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-5210. Comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7. All statements should include the respondent’s name, telephone number and mailing address.