Utah court system has 93% approval rating, chief justice boasts

A File photo of the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City.

A File photo of the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Court system has a 93-percent satisfaction rating, Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant touted in his annual state of the judiciary address.

In his remarks to the Utah State Legislature, the chief justice said the court system had surveyed litigants, lawyers, witnesses and others. A startling 93 percent said “I am satisfied with my experience at court today.”

“That is a number of which I am extremely proud,” Durrant told lawmakers in speeches before both the House and Senate. “It’s a number that our judges and staff are proud of, and it’s one you should be proud of as well.”

Over the past year, the Utah State Court system has handled just under 900,000 cases, he said. Faced with budget cuts in years past, Durrant noted that the courts have become more efficient: embracing electronic filings in everything from cases to warrants.

“Five years ago, we spent $150,000 on file folders alone. This year? Zero,” he said.

Electronic filing allowed Summit County’s courthouse to add an extra courtroom — by converting an old file storage room.

In his State of the Judiciary, Durrant said the court system still had challenges. Accessibility to the court system, he said, was the greatest one. Many people still struggle to get legal representation, and language translation remains an issue (more than 47 languages were translated in court cases last year, the chief justice said).

Durrant pointed to assistance coming from a court-sponsored Self Help Center and online court assistance programs. He also praised the Utah State Bar for having volunteer lawyers provide assistance for little or no fee.

Durrant also indicated he was pleased with the decision to open the courts up to TV cameras. Since April 1, 2013 more than 100 cases have had television cameras in them, he said, including the high-profile murder trial of Dr. Martin MacNeill, which was televised live.

“It is our hope that by allowing cameras into the courtroom, we will bring the work of our courts closer to the public and that the trust and confidence of the public in the fairness and effectiveness of Utah’s courts will continue to increase,” Durrant said.