SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox on Monday appointed a Latina to fill an upcoming vacancy on the 2nd District Court.
If confirmed by the Utah Senate, Cristina Ortega, an assistant U.S. attorney, will take over for Judge Ernie W. Jones, who is retiring March 16.
“From her undergraduate and law school days to her legal career, Cristina Ortega has a track record of excellence,” Cox said in a statement. “Her experience as a prosecutor coupled with her experience serving on many community boards shows her devotion to public service. I know she’ll be a dedicated and valued member of the 2nd District Court bench.”
Ortega, who has held her current position since 2018, also serves as the point of contact and liaison between all state and federal law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prior to her current position, Ortega served as a deputy county attorney in the Davis County Attorney’s Office and a deputy district attorney in the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office.
She also served as a member of the Utah Board of Regents, a member of the University of Utah board of trustees and a member of the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah.
Ortega received her juris doctor from the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice-law enforcement and Latin American studies/legal studies from Weber State University.
“I am beyond ecstatic and humbled in this appointment to the 2nd District Court,” Ortega said in the statement. “I know that a position on the bench comes with great responsibility. I want Gov. Cox and the people of the great state of Utah to know that, if confirmed, I will work hard every day to apply the rule of law with fidelity and impartiality. It will be a true honor and privilege to serve the community that has given so much to me.”
Last week, during a conference on education equity with school leaders from four Western states and education secretary nominee Miguel Cardona, Cox hinted at Ortega’s selection.
Cox noted that the issue of education equity was a major focus of his campaign and now, his administration.
Cox said he has been asked why, in a state with a population that is 14% Latino, that there are not more Latinos serving as judges.
“We need more. We need more Latinos to go to law school. If we’re going to have more Latino judges and to have more Latinos go to law school, we need to have more Latinos go to college. To have more Latinos go to college, we need to have more Latinos graduate from high school,” he said.
Cox said he was to fill one judgeship and he was pleased to report that among the five finalists forwarded to his office for consideration, two were Latina.
The nomination is subject to confirmation by the Utah Senate. Member of the public who would like to comment on the selection should contact the Utah Senate Judicial Confirmation committee staff at the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at the Utah Capitol, House Building, Suite W210, P.O. Box 145210, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-5210.
All statements should include the respondent’s name, telephone number and mailing address.
The 2nd District Court includes Davis, Morgan and Weber counties.