- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah judge who became one of few minorities on the state bench despite criticism when she was nominated could now be removed following an unfavorable review of her legal abilities from a judge-evaluation panel.

Voters will decide in November whether to retain 3rd District Judge Su Chon, who emigrated from Korea as a child.

The Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission said in a report that her legal abilities were rated below average and she can be indecisive.

She can be seen as impersonal in the courtroom and doesn’t always include meaningful legal analysis in her rulings, the report said, citing a survey of attorneys, court staff and jurors. Others said she is even-handed, attentive and professional.

Chon disagreed with the recommendation, saying in a written response that more than 60 percent of those who responded to the survey said she should stay.

“I respect the process, and I work hard. My rulings have not been overturned on appeal,” Chon wrote. “My grandfathers were tortured and mistreated because North Korea refused to uphold the law - this drives the person and judge I am today.”

The commission evaluated about 100 judges based on a combination of surveys, courtroom observation reports and a standards check.

They voted against retaining four, said executive director Jennifer Yim. Chon was the only one who decided to run for retention rather than leave.

Judge Darold McDade in Utah County also got a legal ability score below the commission’s minimum threshold, but courtroom observers cited his respectful courtroom demeanor and the panel voted to keep him.

In Utah, judges are appointed by the governor, confirmed by state lawmakers and voters periodically decide whether to keep them in office. The evaluations are meant to give information to voters and judges as a public accountability measure, Yim said.

Chon serves in the 3rd District, which includes Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties.

A graduate of Brigham Young University, she was an attorney for 18 years before she became a judge. She was the state bar’s 2005 pro bono attorney of the year and served as an Office of Utah Property Rights Ombudsman.

Chon was appointed by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in 2012. In a rare move, a Utah Senate committee rejected her over concerns about her experience, including the fact she’d never argued a case at trial. She was nevertheless confirmed by the full Utah Senate.

Seven out of every 10 judges in Utah’s court system are white males. Of the 102 state court judges, 10 belong to an ethnic minority, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, which was the first to report the judicial committee’s recommendation against retaining Chon.


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