Americans are the master of their government because America's courts are independent of government, retiring U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins told the Utah Bar Foundation Tuesday.

A series of vital cases - from the attempt to fire Davis County Librarian Jeannie Layton because of a book on a bookshelf to the Downwinders' fight for justice and compensation - taught him the necessity of independent courts, Jenkins said.America's courts are a quiet success story, he told those gathered at the foundation's annual lunch at the Law & Justice Center.

Jurors' reaction to jury duty reflect that success, he said. Polls routinely taken of all federal jurors shows that "they are almost uniformly proud of the system and proud of their service," he said.

The justice process commands respect because it is rooted in core values, particularly the dignity of the individual. "It's function is not entertainment as an extension of the TV studio," he told attorneys and judges.

Jenkins will take senior status, effective Jan 1. As a senior judge, he will sharply reduce his workload.

"I do want to observe that I am not `retiring' in the conventional sense. I am slowing down. I took senior status for a selfish reason. My energy is finite. I want to keep promises to my wife, my children, my grandchildren and myself."

While he may miss life on the bench, there are some aspects of government life he won't miss, like getting stuck in government elevators.

Jenkins told his audience about getting stuck Monday in the elevator at the federal courthouse reserved for judges and prisoners.

After pushing buttons and jumping up and down repeatedly, he was still stuck.

"I located the emergency phone, found the `emergency number,' and dialed it. It rang. A nice,, well-modulated but recorded voice answered. `This is no longer a government telephone number. Please consult your local directory for assistance.' "

He praised the foundation for its decades of charitable and compassionate work. Brigham Young, Utah settler and second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, could not have been speaking of the foundation when he repeatedly vilified lawyers, he said.

"A lawyer is stench in the nostrils of every Latter-day Saint," Young once said.

"Now there is a current dispute whether Brigham Young was speaking prophetically when he so opined," Jenkins said. "I am assured by Dallin Oaks, James Faust and Bob Backman - attorneys and church general authorities all - that he was not. But my confidential sources say that in spite of what they say, it remains an open question because the brethren are divided on the question and thus unable to speak with one voice."

He closed by telling his audience something he usually tells jurors when they are about to deliberate a case: "The question is not whether the government wins or loses. The government always wins when justice is done."