In dedication to Chief Justice Christine M. Durham.

Author:Krannich, Jess M.
Position::Utah Supreme Court - Chief Judge Lawrence H. Cooke Sixth Annual State Constitutional Commentary Symposium: The State of State Courts - Testimonial

In 1982, Christine Meaders Durham was named the first female Justice to the Utah Supreme Court by then-Governor Scott M. Matheson. Only thirty-seven years old, she had served as a trial judge for four years before being appointed to Utah's highest bench. For the past thirty years, ten of them as Chief Justice, she has provided steady leadership to the judiciary of the State of Utah, becoming one of the most well-known and respected jurists in the country. During that time, Chief Justice Durham has dedicated herself tirelessly to advancing the law and the legal profession. In addition to her service on the Utah Supreme Court, she has (among other things) taught courses in constitutional law, served on the Utah Constitutional Revision Commission, the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Leadership Institute in Judicial Education, and been President of the National Association of Women Judges and the Conference of Chief Justices. For her countless contributions to the legal system, she was presented with the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, one of the nation's highest judicial honors, by Chief Justice John G. Roberts in November 2007. (1)

It is appropriate that this journal has dedicated its State Constitutional Commentary issue to Chief Justice Durham because her contributions to the development of the law are particularly significant in the area of state constitutional law. In many states, no substantive body of state constitutional law exists, because interpretation of the state constitution is an afterthought to the application of federal constitutional jurisprudence. In cases involving constitutional rights, state courts frequently rely on federal decisions and do not look to their state constitutions unless the case at bar involves a state-specific provision. This is not so with the State of Utah, which has one of the most significant bodies of state constitutional law in the nation. Much of the development of Utah constitutional law is due to Chief Justice Durham, who has long been a proponent of conducting an independent state constitutional analysis whenever possible. (2) Her approach has resulted in numerous opinions regarding the Utah Constitution. The hallmark of Chief Justice Durham's jurisprudence in this area has been a willingness to tackle difficult questions through a meticulous analysis of the Utah Constitution's text, history, intent, and application to the facts at issue.


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