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Unanimous vote for historic Utah Supreme Court nominee

Posted at 3:50 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 18:52:05-04

SALT LAKE CITY  — The Utah State Senate's Judicial Confirmation Committee voted unanimously to advance Judge Jill Pohlman's nomination to the state's top court.

If the full Senate votes to confirm her to the Utah Supreme Court, it will be significant. For the first time in state history, the Court would be majority women. Committee chair Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, suggested in the hearing there was no reason Governor Spencer Cox's nominee wouldn't be confirmed.

On Tuesday, senators quizzed Judge Pohlman about her record and judicial philosophy. She currently serves on the Utah Court of Appeals.

Judge Pohlman's confirmation comes at a time when the Utah Supreme Court will decide some very important issues facing the state. Lawsuits challenging Utah's ban on elective abortions, a ban on transgender girls playing school sports matching their gender identity, and redistricting will all ultimately wind up before the Court.

Judge Pohlman previously said she could not opine on such matters, as she may be asked to decide them. But Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, asked her about public opinion influencing Court decisions.

"The Supreme Court should consider the public importance of a particular issue, if it’s an issue that needs to be decided, that needs to be resolved, that’s causing conflict below," she said. "Then it’s something the Supreme Court should take on in the appropriate case."

Judge Pohlman said there are some issues they simply cannot consider as the Court may not have jurisdiction. But as far as public pressure? She said she would resist that.

"We are applying the law. I think the Court should be aware of the effect of its decision, and I think try to explain its decision well. Try to make sure they can show the public that it’s applying the law and not just making decisions based on... the justice’s personal views or whims. I think that creates legitimacy. But simply just listening to the public clamor, those kinds of things we just can’t consider and I wouldn’t," she said.

Sen. Weiler asked Judge Pohlman what barriers there are for people to accessing justice within the judiciary. She replied that it's tough for people to afford a lawyer. When Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, asked her how she would increase access to justice, Judge Pohlman pointed to a number of initiatives the Court system is currently piloting.

"We have to keep trying to find different avenues that work for different types of people," she said.

The Utah State Senate is expected to vote on confirming Judge Pohlman's nomination to the Supreme Court next month.