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New appeals judge

As a boy, he found the Constitution compelling

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Judge Jay S. Bybee of Las Vegas, Nev., was sworn in as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the largest circuit court in the country, on March 28.

For the past two years, Brother Bybee has been serving as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., where he has provided legal advice to the president and reviewed constitutionality issues. He and his wife, Dianna, and their four children, Scott, David, Alyssa and Ryan, are relocating from their home in the Vienna Ward, Oakton Virginia Stake, where he taught gospel doctrine, to their new home in Henderson, Nev.

At 49, Brother Bybee's distinguished legal career spans academic, private and governmental arenas and his legal analyses on such topics as the First Amendment, separation of powers and Federalism have appeared in top law reviews and journals.

"I've been interested in the Constitution since I was 9 years old," Brother Bybee said. "My 4th grade teacher, Carl Gustafson, talked about government and how it belonged to the people. He inspired me to read the Constitution and newspapers to keep up on current events, so I came to believe that the people are truly in charge, that this is a government of the people, not a government of the leaders."

The Constitution is unlike the common law, he said, because it is a written document. "Therefore, we have the opportunity as well as the obligation to refer to the text as we legislate and interpret the law," he said.

Brother Bybee appreciates the role of law, or what he calls, "the majesty of law" in a society which must ask the fundamental question, "How are we going to conduct ourselves?" One of the most powerful influences in Brother Bybee's life has been his family. He said he is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, George Hickman, an attorney and city judge in Albany, Calif. His parents raised their three sons and one daughter in Las Vegas, Nev., and Louisville, Ky., instilling in each a respect for the rules and laws of the land.

Brother Bybee grew up in a home where he was encouraged, but not compelled, to do his best. His father was a health physicist at the Nevada Test Site who drove 60 miles to work every day. He made it a point to spend one night a week with each child, either helping with homework or letting the child help him with his projects, while the rest of the family washed dishes with Sister Bybee, learning songs and playing mind games.

"Those were great nights," Brother Bybee recalls, "but when we finally got an electric dishwasher, it just wasn't the same. We didn't have to do the dishes anymore, and although we said we had more time, the question was, more time for what? That time together was precious."

All four Bybee children, Jay, David, Karen and Lynn, served missions and married spouses who served missions. Brother Bybee served in the Chile Santiago Mission from 1973-75.

Brother Bybee graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brigham Young University in 1977 and Cum Laude from BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School in 1980. His professional career included serving at the White House as associate counsel under President George Bush.

He also taught in two law schools, the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University for eight years, and the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas for two years.

"He was a nice, humble and decent human being, who was also a highly intelligent and accomplished lawyer and teacher," said Richard Morgan, dean of the UNLV law school. "In a world of big egos and attitudes, [he] was a breath of fresh air."

In 2000 his students voted him as "Professor of the Year." "[Brother Bybee] is universally respected for his intellect, honesty and ability to articulate the issues, plus he is not a compromiser of principles," said Judge Lloyd D. George of the U.S. District Court of Nevada.

"I'm honored by this new challenge," said Brother Bybee, "but I also recognize the gravity and responsibility of this position. I take very seriously the fact that I have people's economic interests, liberty and very lives in my hands."