A familiar face will take up the gavel at the Grantsville City Justice Court next year.
Ron Elton, who retired three years ago from his post as Grantsville City Attorney, was appointed judge of the Grantsville Justice Court last week.
Elton, of Tooele, has to attend new judge orientation through the Administrative Office of the Courts and receive certification by the Utah Judicial Council before taking the bench.
Grantsville City Mayor Brent Marshall said choosing Elton was a difficult process because of the overall quality of the three finalists for the position.
“We got him ready to go now. He’s got to get signed up for his schooling that he’s got to do,” Marshall said. “The candidates were all very qualified and it didn’t make the decision easy. They’re all honorable men and I commend them for submitting their names.”
Elton was Grantsville City Attorney from 2007 through 2011 — though he had served as the town’s legal counsel since 1980 — as well as attorney for Rush Valley and Vernon from 2000 through this year.
His legal career started when he was hired as a part-time attorney with the Tooele County Attorney’s Office in 1974. Upon his graduation from the S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah in 1976, Elton was hired as a full-time deputy county attorney. Three years later, at the age of 30, Elton was appointed Tooele County Attorney by the Tooele County Commission.
He held that position until 1994. Elton was also the legal advisor for the Tooele County School District from 1980 through 2006, and resigned when he was offered the full-time position with Grantsville City.
Marshall said Elton’s overall legal experience gave him the edge for the part-time position over the other two finalists: Gary Dalton, a Grantsville resident and director of the Salt Lake County Criminal Justice Services; and Ronald Powell, a Stockton resident and Stockton Town Justice Court Judge.
“There’s a multitude of reasons but the biggest reason I chose Ron was he was an attorney, and I feel like when you have someone on the bench who can send someone to jail, that individual ought to have a complete understanding of the law,” Marshall said. He noted that Dalton and Powell do not have law degrees.
Law degrees are not currently required for municipal court judges; the previous Grantsville judge, Dar Butcher, also did not have a law degree. Butcher resigned Aug. 15 in order to take a full-time non-judicial position elsewhere.
Marshall said he believes one day law backgrounds will be required for municipal judges like they are for district court judges, a change that would benefit the people coming before the judges.
“I think it’s one of those things that will be coming down the pipe from the district court,” he said. “I think at a later date you’ll see municipal judges will have to have a jurist degrees. If you’re a defendant, you should feel confident that the individual there has a complete understanding of the law.”