The Utah Judicial Conduct Commission recently issued a memorandum decision recommending Judge Bruce K. Halliday's public reprimand in connection with three 7th District Court criminal complaints.
Based on the findings of facts outlined in the memorandum decision, the conduct commission filed an order of public reprimand with the Utah Supreme Court on April 18.
The Utah Supreme Court will issue a ruling in the case and determine whether the public reprimand order will be implemented.
Last October, Halliday was notified in writing that the judicial commission had authorized formal charges to inquire into allegations challenging the judge's conduct contained in a verbal complaint by Emery County Attorney David Blackwell.
In addition to noticing Halliday of the formal charges, the document indicated that the commission planned to explore three allegations of misconduct.
First, Halliday reportedly had several meetings and conversations outside of court with the defendant, identified as Natalie Blanton.
The out-of-court contacts purportedly started after Halliday placed the defendant on probation and continued after defendant's supervision was terminated.
Second, Halliday alleged engaged in conversations with Blanton about pending district court cases.
On March 12, the judicial commission conducted a confidential hearing into the misconduct allegations filed against Halliday.
Susan Hunt presented the examiner's position at the proceeding, while attorneys Ron Yengich and Peter Goodall represented Judge Halliday at the confidential hearing.
In addition to Halliday, the witnesses included Jeff Wood, adult probation and parole officer in Price; and William Brent Langston, deputy Emery County attorney.
At the conclusion of the confidential hearing, the members of the commission weighed the evidence and issued a memorandum decision questioning the judge's conduct in the Blanton cases.
Dated April 18, the commission's formal memorandum decision contends that Halliday's out-of-court contacts with Blanton violated the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct.
First, the meetings constituted impermissible ex parte contacts.
Second, the meetings created the appearance of impropriety.
Third, the contacts adversely affected the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
In addition, Judge Halliday's contacts with Blanton represented conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. bring the judicial office into disrepute and violated the Utah Constitution.
After citing the alleged judicial code of conduct and constitutional violations, the commission's memorandum decision stated that "Judge Halliday should be publicly remanded for his actions"
Along with the conclusions of law, the judicial conduct commission's memorandum decision outlined several findings of facts, including:
Judge Halliday was appointed to the 7th Circuit bench in February 1987, then moved to the district court in January 1992. He has never been publicly, privately or informally disciplined while serving on the circuit or district bench by the judicial conduct commission or the Utah Supreme Court.
Blanton was the defendant in three criminal cases set before Halliday. The judge sentenced the defendant to prison, but stayed the execution of the incarceration period and placed Blanton on probation. As a part of the defendant's probation, Blanton was ordered to serve one year in jail.
During the defendant's probation from June 2003 to November 2004, Judge Halliday reportedly scheduled several review hearings to track Blanton's progress.
Judge Halliday met with Blanton several times outside of court during the defendant's probation.
The first meeting purportedly occurred when the judge went to Blanton's home to check on the defendant's progress.
Halliday reportedly initiated the second meeting after having a discussion with one of the defendant's counselors.
The third meeting purportedly occurred when Halliday arrived at the courthouse and Blanton asked to speak to the judge. After the two went into the judge's chambers, the defendant reportedly challenged the sentence imposed by Halliday in a criminal case which did not involve Blanton.
The fourth meeting reportedly occurred when Halliday visited he defendant's home unannounced with a small bunch of roses intended as a "keep up the good work/sorry the judge did something that made your recovery even more difficult" offering.]
During one of the visits, Halliday reportedly solicited Blanton's input regarding a drug court case, but never identified the defendant involved in the matter.
Blanton's probation was terminated successfully on Nov. 10, 2004 at the request of adult probation and parole. Halliday's well-intentioned actions were driven by a goal to reduce recidivism. There was no evidence of romantic involvement between the judge and Blanton.