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JUDGE’S CHANCES OF KEEPING JOB CALLED 50-50

SHARE JUDGE’S CHANCES OF KEEPING JOB CALLED 50-50

Justice Court Judge Harry Rodabough has about a 50-50 chance of keeping his job, according to some city officials' estimates.

The City Council will meet tonight - two weeks past his reappointment deadline - to see if he does.Among other issues, Mayor Jerry Larrabee has expressed concerns that Rodabough isn't administering the court well enough and is inconsistent in his sentencing.

The court increased its caseload from 2,309 in 1994 to 2,738 in 1995, but pretrial hearings are still backlogged all the way to June.

Rodabough acknowledged his administration could be improved. His beef is the timing of the complaints.

"This could have come up in '94, '95, six months ago, three weeks ago, and here we are after the fact dealing with this." he said.

The statutory deadline for reappointment was the first Monday in February, or Feb. 5. Since then, Rodabough has been in limbo, operating the court under what the Utah Administration Office of the Courts calls "assumed authority."

"In five years (on the job) I've never been evaluated, I've never heard a thing," Rodabough said. "I thought I was doing well - better than most."

As far as the claim his sentencing is inconsistent, Rodabough said sentences aren't necessarily supposed to be consistent.

"Every situation is not the same," he said. "You need to tailor the sentencing so that it fits the issue."

Rodabough gave the example of sentencing a man with an open container of beer in his car where the cans are half-full and he and his buddies were obviously drinking. That should differ from a teenager driving his uncle's truck that has a months-old empty can under the seat, he said.

Councilman Darin Hicks agreed.

"There's a parameter and range within the law on any given citation," he said. "I think it's well within his bounds to interpret each situation."

Nevertheless, Hicks said he agreed with the mayor that concerns regarding efficient administration are legitimate. Even Roda-bough conceded that his backlog is too large and he needs to improve in the area of administration.

Justice Court judge is a part-time job requiring no previous legal training. Rodabough estimated spending an average of 10 to 12 hours weekly on the job. He is paid $1,000 per month.

Rodabough is not an attorney and fills the justice court post in addition to his job as manager of chemical transportation safety for Union Pacific.

City Council members Larrabee and Rodabough have met three or four times since the reappointment deadline passed. The issues, which everyone says are complex, still haven't been resolved. Hicks said he wasn't sure whether the decision will finally be made tonight but Rodabough said he, for one, is ready for the thing to end.

"I told them yesterday, `Don't let that meeting end without a decision,' " he said. "My desire is that we resolve this one way or another."

Justice Court judges are appointed to four-year terms. Ro-da-baugh finished the term of Robert Matheson, who died three years into his term, and subsequently fulfilled one four-year appointment.

Rodabough's staffers say they like him personally, though they are aware of the problems surrounding him.