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State Court Administrator Ronald Gibson announced Friday that he will step down as the court's top executive, giving the reins to Appeals Court Judge Pamela Greenwood until a permanent replacement can be found.

Gibson will take the previously vacant post as appellate court administrator until his retirement in two years.The judiciary will launch a search for a new state court administrator immediately. "I think it will take three to six months," said Chief Justice Michael D. Zimmerman. The search will likely be a national one, though "I suspect that it's a job where having some awareness of a local landscape is an advantage," he said.

Gibson's move to the new post is one of a series of moves that puts some of the judiciary's most politically savvy people on the front line weeks before the opening of a critical legislative session.

Court officials will ask the 1995 Legislature to fund a $68 million bond for the construction of the new court complex.

Zimmerman will again actively work with lawmakers. Greenwood, a former Utah State Bar president, brings her own strong political network to that post.

In addition, Zimmerman last spring created a year-round liaison team, headed by Assistant Court Administrator Mark Jones, to work closely with legislative leadership and the governor's staff.

"We need the full bond this year," Zimmerman said. "We have the land and we'll be starting demolition."

The judiciary will also ask lawmakers to fund a new Court of Appeals judgeship, create two new district judgeships, turn six court commissioner posts into judgeships and fund a new juvenile court judgeship and a new court commissioner post.

"Admittedly, we've got a lot on our plates and it's going to be a tight session," Zimmerman said."But my sense is our relations with the Legislature and the executive branch are good. We've had a lot of communication over the past year . . . I'm hoping we'll have good luck this year."

Greenwood graduated from the University of Utah law school in 1972. Long seen as one of Utah's few female pioneers in the legal profession, she is the only woman elected as the bar's president. She is a former vice president of First Interstate Bank and was one of the original judges appointed to the Court of Appeals when it was created in 1986.

In his new post, Gibson will assist Zimmerman with administrative duties and special projects. "I've been quite busy with the duties of the chief and could use some sort of staff assistance, which I don't have," Zimmerman said. "It seemed to us that is a job he could perform well."