Facebook Twitter

RULING MAKES LITTLE IMPACT IN 4 COUNTIES

SHARE RULING MAKES LITTLE IMPACT IN 4 COUNTIES

Those convicted and sentenced for misdemeanor offenses in Utah, Wasatch, Juab and Millard counties shouldn't make any plans for a new trial or sentence.

The Utah Supreme Court's recent ruling on the use of court commissioners might create mayhem in Salt Lake's 3rd District Court but will have little impact on 4th District Court cases. Court Administrator Paul Sheffield said he is unaware of any 4th District criminal cases that will be affected by the ruling."It will have some impact but certainly not what it will do to the 3rd District Court," Sheffield said.

The Supreme Court ruling handed down Monday says the Utah Constitution prevents court commissioners from entering final judgments or sentences in criminal cases.

Because of a heavy caseload, 3rd District Court has been using commissioners to preside over misdemeanor trials. In many cases, commissioners have signed final orders and sentenced defendants to jail. The Supreme Court's ruling likely means those defendants will get a new trial or will have to be sentenced by a district judge.

Fourth District Court, however, only has one commissioner, and he doesn't preside over criminal cases. Commissioner Howard Maetani hears testimony and makes temporary rulings on domestic and spouse abuse cases. He also hears testimony at sanity hearings and makes recommendations to judges. Sheffield said all final divorce decrees and commitment orders are signed by a district judge.

"We haven't been using our commissioners to make final orders and handle criminal cases," he said. "If there are any of those situations occurring now then we're going to have to make some adjustments."

The ruling will change the way 4th District Court handles default divorce cases. In the past, Maetani has issued recommended decrees on default divorce cases and those became final if the ruling was not appealed in 10 days.

"That will no longer happen; those orders will now have to be countersigned by a judge," Sheffield said.

The 4th District Juvenile Court also uses a commissioner in some cases, but court administrators don't expect the ruling to change the way those commissioners are being used.