Jill Pohlman on track to become Utah’s next Supreme Court justice

If Judge Jill Pohlman is confirmed by the entire Utah Senate, the Utah Supreme Court would see its first female majority.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Justice Jill M. Pohlman is introduced as a nominee for the Supreme Court of Utah by Governor Spencer Cox on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Utah is about to have its first-ever female majority on the state Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the Utah Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee voted unanimously to advance the nomination of Jill Pohlman, Governor Spencer Cox to the Supreme Court of Utah, for consideration by the full Senate . She currently sits on the state appeals court.

“I am honored by the confidence the Governor has shown in me by making this appointment. And I am honored by the important work that, if confirmed, I would be called upon to do,” Pohlman said during a July 19 committee meeting.

Pohlman was named to replace Justice Thomas Lee, the older brother of Sen. Mike Lee, who announced in January that he would step down at the end of that month. If confirmed, she will join two other female justices, Diana Hagen and Paige Petersen, as well as Chief Justice Matthew Durrant and Justice John Pearce.

The appointment comes as three high-profile cases are expected to come before the Utah Supreme Court in the coming months. They include a lawsuit challenging a ban on transgender girls participating in high school sports, a restraining order on Utah’s abortion “trigger law,” and a case in which plaintiffs argue that limits of Congress redrawn by the Legislature have been amended and require judicial review.

Although committee members did not ask Pohlman directly about any of the potentially historic cases that are expected to go to court, some have asked about his judicial approach to those cases.

Committee chairman Sen. Todd Weiler of R-Woods Cross questioned whether it was appropriate for the court to recognize “enumerated rights” in the Utah Constitution. In response, Pohlman said that beyond reviewing the objective meaning of the constitution and other legal documents, “there are a lot of issues that are going to be facing the Supreme Court in the near future, and so I don’t know that I can answer the question more precisely.

Following Dobbs v. Jackson, Pohlman has repeatedly criticized what she described as the politicization of the courts at the federal level. At last week’s committee meeting, Pohlman said she appreciates that, unlike U.S. Supreme Court justices, she generally doesn’t know where Utah Supreme Court justices would land on particular questions.

“As the courts become more political, we see that a lot federally anyway, I’m afraid people don’t trust the courts anymore,” Pohlman said. “And when people stop trusting the courts, I don’t know where we’re going.”

Pohlman was appointed to the Utah Court of Appeals by Governor Gary Herbert in 2016. She previously served as a clerk for U.S. District Court Chief Judge David Winder and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

While practicing as a private attorney, she represented the Deseret News in its dispute with the Salt Lake Tribune over a joint operating agreement and participated in the independent investigation into the Olympics corruption scandal. of Salt Lake City in 2002. Pohlman also served on the steering committee of former President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign in Utah.

Pohlman’s confirmation hearing before the full Senate is tentatively scheduled for August 17.

“We need women’s voices,” Pohlman said at a June press conference announcing her appointment. “And I think that’s just confirmation that women should serve and women should speak their minds.”

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