New judge presides over cases in SSL Justice Court
Mar 09, 2020 02:14PM
By Bill Hardesty
Judge Ryan J. Richards presides during a case at the South Salt Lake Justice Court. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)
By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]
There is a new judge in town. Judge Ryan J. Richards was confirmed by the South Salt Lake City Council on Dec. 11, 2019 for the South Salt Lake Justice Court. He took the bench in late January.
“I am impressed with how Judge Richards has so quickly and adeptly stepped into his new role as judge. He has taken on the mantle of judge with authority and respect. He is familiar with the types of cases we hear in our court and understands the importance of helping individuals understand their rights and consequences,” said Lisa Forrester, the court administrator for SSL Justice Court.
Richards is a Utah local. He grew up in the Millcreek area. He graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s in political science. He earned his law degree from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU graduating magna cum laude.
He was admitted to the Utah Bar in 2012. His experience is in criminal law on the prosecution side. He worked as the SSL prosecutor for three years. While serving in this position, Richards became familiar with the city.
“I made a connection with the city and how unique and diverse it is,” Richards said.
Before coming to the justice court, Richards worked in the Utah Attorney General’s office. He worked with the Utah Department of Public Safety on DUI issues.
“I just don’t want to just process cases. I genuinely care about rights. How people are treated in court,” Richards said.
While justice court handles smaller cases, Richards said, “The case matters to that person before me. People’s rights don’t take a backseat just because it is justice court.”
He pointed out that the only real power courts have is found in the respect people have for the juridical system.
“I don’t want to do anything to damage the system,” Richards said.
“He really has stepped into the bench with such grace and competence and obvious concern for all parties. It was a pleasure to work with him these last few weeks, and I feel comfortable that he will do a lot of good as the South Salt Lake Justice Court judge,” Forrester remarked.
Justice courts are part of the Utah Court system. They are established by municipalities to handle class B and C misdemeanors, violations of ordinances, small claims and infractions.
An example of a class B misdemeanor is an adult who knowingly furnishes alcohol to a minor. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
An example of a class C misdemeanor is driving on a suspended license and is punishable up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $750.
Because of I-80, I-15, and State Street, the SSL Justice Courts handles many DUI cases followed by domestic violence cases. Low level drug offenses, theft and traffic citations are also common in the SSL Justice Court.
On average the SSL Justice Court handles about 90 cases a day ranging from arraignment to pretrial motions to cases. While not common, they also handle jury trials.