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FORMER COURT CLERK TO SUCCEED JUSTICE BUCKLEY ON RIVERTON BENCH

A former court clerk to justice of the peace Gaylen Buckley, who was publicly censured for his actions on the bench, has been named his successor.

Darla Serassio, a former City Council member who was the city's court clerk for 12 years, will take the bench after a certification process later this year.She served on the council from 1986 to 1990.

"Darla is highly respected by her peers," said William Way, city administrator.

Serassio also served on the city's planning and zoning commission for two years and chaired the commission while a city coun-cil-woman.

Serassio and Buckley were named in a 1995 federal lawsuit over a traffic ticket. Kaylin Robinson received $5,500 when the civil-rights case was settled out of court Feb. 20.

Robinson was ticketed in 1992 for driving without a license but didn't sign her name to the ticket, which promises a court appearance. When she didn't appear Ser-assio issued a warrant for her arrest by affixing Buckley's stamp-signature to it.

A similar set of circumstances led to a second civil-rights lawsuit still pending in federal court.

Serassio declined to speak about the cases but said she's confident in her abilities to serve Riverton well.

"I wouldn't have applied if I didn't think I was qualified," Ser-assio said. "It's a people's court. The city chooses somebody with experience in dealing with the public. I have a lifetime's experience in that."

A third-generation Rivertonian, Serassio has a bachelor's degree in communication with an emphasis in problem resolution from Brig-ham Young University.

Serassio and other new justices, will attend two days of training - probably in late August - and must pass a test for certification before taking the bench, said Richard Schwermer, assistant state court administrator.

The process "serves basically as an orientation. A lot of being a justice court judge is common sense. We don't presume to teach them to be a judge in two days," Schwer-mer said.

Instead, the training involves teaching the new justices where to find answers, including an informal mentoring program, and requires 30 hours of additional training be undertaken every year.

The state's Board of Justice Court Judges is looking at ways to lengthen the training to an 80-hour program, Schwermer said.

Serassio was among about 20 applicants for the justice position, Riverton Mayor Sandra Lloyd said. She was appointed by Lloyd, with the City Council's advisement.

In the pending federal trial, Robert Newton was pulled over for crossing the center line in 1990. He didn't sign the ticket and didn't appear in court. Then, too, Seras-sio used Buckley's signature-stamp to issue a failure-to-appear charge. Newton was arrested and jailed three years later.

Buckley was publicly censured for imprisoning Newton illegally and sentencing him to 30 days in jail. Utah code only allows a justice of the peace to sentence someone to five days. Newton, of Herriman, served six days.

Denise Dragoo, chairman of the Judicial Conduct Commission that censured Buckley, said only Buckley was investigated. According to the commission, clerks cannot use the signature stamp without explicit approval from the judge.

"We don't have jurisdiction over the clerk. We only investigated him (Buckley)," Dragoo said. "She was clerk for him, and it was up to him to take the responsibility."

Until Serassio completes the certification process, Justice A.A. Mitchell of Bluffdale will continue to serve as Riverton's acting justice.