Tag: legal clerk

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 34: Electing judges

Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 34: Electing judiciary officials

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

I mentioned in a previous post that if I were to build my own legal system that I would make all judiciary officials publicly elected officials. However, I recognize there are pros and cons to electing judges.  

PROS (as I see them): 

  1. Having elected judges would increase the accountability judiciary officials have to the public. In Utah, we can vote to retain a judge, but we do not vote them into office, as they are appointed by the governor.
  2. Electing judges allows the people to have a greater voice in the justice system. What better way to ensure that the judges represent the people then allowing the people to elect the judges?
  3. A judge who is elected has more incentive to act in accordance with the voice of the people, especially if they face re-election. They cannot “rest on their laurels” so to speak.

CONS (as I see them): 

  1. Elected judiciary officials are more susceptible to the influence of special interests. As is the case with any publicly elected official, big money can and will throw its funds behind the candidate they believe will represent their particular interests, even when those interest are contrary to the public interest. 
  2. Publicly elected judiciary officials have more incentive to “legislate from the bench” to appease their constituents
  3. * Electing judges can result in inexperienced judges, if the same judge can’t get re-elected. Electing judges can result in a revolving door of new judges coming in and out of the judiciary each election cycle.

*This could be a potential pro in the eyes of some. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 30: Good Judges

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

In the course of my 7 months as a legal assistant to a divorce attorney in Utah, I have already shared some of my thoughts on the role of judges.  

I have come to see how much power judges have and it has given me pause to consider the impact a judge can have on the lives of so many people. It is essential for the courts of Utah (and the rest of the United States of America) to be staffed with good and competent judges. I do not claim to know all of what makes a judge good and competent, but I will elaborate on what I mean by “good” and “competent”. 

What I mean by a “good” judge is a judge that has a good heart. That does not mean a judge who is lax and lenient, unwilling to “make the punishment fit the crime.” Good judges follow the law and construe and apply it fairly and impartially.  

A “competent” judge is knowledgeable of the law and not afraid administer it. Is one who understands the rules of evidence and can be decisive when called upon to be. This is different from what I mean by “good” because competence in this sense means that the judge knows the law, what it means (and what it does not). One who is still learning and willing to learn, even while a judge.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 29: Be Smart

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

The lesson I have been learning in my time working as a legal assistant is how important it is to have legal representation. Not just legal representation, good legal representation.  

I have by now witnessed firsthand the many, many flaws and broken parts of the legal system and I am convinced that I would never want to represent myself in a lawsuit if one was ever filed against me.  

Ignorance is most definitely not bliss when it comes to the law, and trying to defend yourself when the cards are stacked against you (and trust me, it hasn’t taken me long to discover the cards are stacked against you) rarely ends well. Happy endings make for good movies, but self-represented people (also known as pro se) don’t see many happy endings.  

I think that one reason why we like those “against all odds” movies is because it helps us believe things that make us feel better about ourselves and our circumstances. At some point or another in our lives, we all find ourselves unable to handle the truth that the system is broken, and that justice is too often hard to come by. So we latch on to the fantasies where things turn out well and they all lived happily ever after.  

I am not trying to be a “Debbie Downer” or prophesy of forthcoming doom in your particular case (if you are unfortunate enough to be proceeding pro se in a lawsuit), but the realities are that 1) the legal system is in major need of reform and 2) your best protection in and against a broken system is an honest, skilled lawyer who knows both the written and the “unwritten” rules that govern it.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, Week 28: With liberty and justice for all

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

Why is navigating the legal system complicated? There are many reasons. Several things complicate the nature of our legal system. One thing is money.  

Lawyers make a living representing people in legal matters. Money itself is not the cause of the complications in the legal system, but the desire for more money and lots of it complicates many things, and the legal system is no exception. 

Another thing that complicates the legal system is that sometimes people forget that the law is not based on their subjective values and opinions. “Legislating” from the bench complicates things because it undermines faith that someone will be subject to objective standards as opposed to the personal bias of a judge or collective bias of a jury.  

Another problem with the legal system is the public’s growing ignorance of and apathy toward it. I am more convinced each day that one of the most neglected but necessary elements of education is civic education. Ignorance of the law is coming to be seen as a legitimate defense. It is my opinion that one of the greatest gains for a more equitable and just society would be a legally educated populus. One way to help the public better understand and respect the law and legal system is by maintaining laws that are consistent and concise, and avoiding the temptation to believe mere legislation solves anything. Tacitus put it perfectly when he stated, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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How do you go about getting a copy of your divorce papers?

If you have a lawyer: your lawyer can and should give you a copy. 

If you don’t have a lawyer: 

  • go to the courthouse (if the courthouse is open and allowing members of the public to enter the building) and go to the clerk’s office to request a copy (for which you will likely be required to pay); or 
  • call or e-mail the court clerk’s office to request that a copy be mailed or emailed to you (again, don’t be surprised if you are required to pay for the copy, even if it’s emailed to you). 

If you don’t have the telephone number or e-mail address for the court clerk’s office, looking them up online can be hard, if you are not familiar with the precise name of the court where your divorce case was handled. 

So if you find it difficult to find this information, try calling a local attorney’s office, apologize for inconveniencing them, but explain that you are trying to get a copy of your divorce decree (or other documents from the court’s file), and see if that attorney’s office will give you the telephone number or e-mail address. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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