Salt Lake District Attorney Neal Gunnarson wants to be a juvenile judge.

Gunnarson, midway through his first elected term as Salt Lake County's top prosecutor, has joined several other local attorneys who have applied to take the place of retiring 3rd District Juvenile Judge Arthur K. Christean.Gunnarson likes his current job, but has a strong interest in juvenile justice, according to a press release issued by his office Tuesday.

"Mr. Gunnarson sees this as a possible opportunity to enhance his ability to directly affect the youth in our community," the release says.

It says Gunnarson is seeking the judgeship now because it is the only time a vacancy exists. If he is not appointed, "he shall continue to pursue his current responsibilities with total dedication," the release says.

Gunnarson is former superintendent of the state's now-closed training school and campaigned on a get-tough approach to juvenile crime two years ago. He has appeared personally in court on juvenile cases several times throughout his tenure as district attorney.

As many as six of his deputy district attorneys have also applied for the position. The 3rd District Judicial Nominating Commission will meet May 16 to trim the list to five applicants and then formalize it after a public comment period.

The commission is chaired by Salt Lake attorney Frank Suitter. Other members are Jorge Arce-Larreta, Kay Cash, Lisa-Michele Church, Dave Eckersley, Stephen B. Nebeker and Chase Peterson.

The final five names will be forwarded to Gov. Mike Leavitt, who will then select one to serve the 3rd District, which covers Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties.

Gunnarson defeated Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom in 1994.