Sen. Dabakis votes against judge nominee he approved in protest of lack of diversity

SALT LAKE CITY — In protest of a lack of diversity in Utah’s judicial system, an outspoken senator cast a lone dissenting vote.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, voted against Richard Mrazik’s confirmation to the 3rd District Court, a judicial candidate he’d previously voted to confirm. He acknowledged he was making a political statement.

“I like these people and I think they’re great judges. But as the state grows we need a judiciary that has the kind of diversity the state has. It’s really important,” he said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Sen. Dabakis said he believed Mrazik was “very, very well qualified” for the post. But he claimed Utah’s judiciary is 66-percent less diverse than the state’s population.

“Out of 117 judges, almost no Hispanics, African-Americans, Pacific Islanders and I say the system as far as diversity is broken,” he said. “I challenge us to re-look at the plumbing in how we select judges.”

Sen. Dabakis voted for Richard Mrazik at his confirmation committee hearing last week. A letter sent from committee chairman Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, shows a unanimous 7-0 vote for Mrazik.

On Twitter, Sen. Weiler wrote that he was disappointed by his colleague’s protest vote.

Sen. Weiler countered that since 2009, a third of Gov. Gary Herbert’s (who nominates judges) choices have been women. A Salt Lake Tribune analysis, however, shows that only nine judicial nominees are minorities.

Mrazik was confirmed in a 22-1 vote and received a standing ovation from the Senate. In his remarks, Judge Mrazik said he was humbled by the vote.

“I promise to apply the law faithfully and without bias,” he said.