During the 2021 State of the Judiciary on January 19, Chief Justice Matthew Durant delivered a message of hope, fairness and equality. He spoke highly of his colleagues and the Utah judicial system.
Durrant opened the State of Judiciary by noting the detrimental changes and losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our hearts go out to those who have lost businesses, jobs, and of course… those who have lost family members or friends.”
Durrant also noted how the public sector had to adapt in the wake of this crisis and thanked President Adams and Speaker Wilson for their foresight in scaling back the state budget and allocating state funds wisely. “You have played a critical role in leading our state through this crisis,” said Durant.
Durant spoke on how the judiciary faced their own set of daunting changes. “[Our judges and staff] have risen to the occasion and more. By mid April, we were able to move the majority of the court system online, with all of our courts holding virtual meetings and trials. A herculean task accomplished at breakneck speed by our IT department.” Durant said the judiciary is still doing relatively well at keeping pace with their pre-pandemic caseload, with the exception of the age of pending cases and the conducting of jury trials.
Finally, Chief Justice Durant discussed how the Utah Judicial System aims to “treat all those who seek justice with respect, fairness and impartiality,” He said. “We feel a compelling need to communicate to those who feel left behind, they will not be left behind by our court system…they will be on equal footing with every other Utah citizen. They will find a judge who is committed to treating them with dignity and respect, and to make sure that their basic rights are protected.”
Durant discussed the need for all members of the court to recognize the biases they have. In order to safeguard against these biases, the court has also set up a new office in the judiciary: The Office of Fairness and Accountability. “We as a judicial branch are committed to holding ourselves accountable…everyone will be treated with the respect and dignity that is owed them as citizens and as human beings,” said Durant.
Chief Justice Durant closed by praising Utah legislators for their hard work and commitment to serving the public. His hope is that Utah legislators and the court can work together to honor the trust placed in them by the citizens of Utah. “We are now more than ever, all in this together.”