Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine M. Durham is the keynote speaker at the YWCA’s Young Women’s Leadership Summit on Thursday, May 14, from 1-5 p.m. at Westminster College’s Gore School of Business, Gore Atrium, 1840 S. 1300 East. Women age 18-30 can register at YWCA.org.
You’ll be speaking on the importance of developing leadership skills. What got you started on the right track?
My childhood years were full of many opportunities to be self-sufficient and manage my own time. I was an oldest child and my parents worked alternating shifts until I was 11, so I had responsibilities for younger siblings. It was also a very safe time in southern California, and I was allowed to roam far and wide on my bike, and to read endlessly and uninterruptedly all summer long. I think that helped me to grow up independent and self-determined.
Did you ever imagine that you’d become a judge?
Never can I recall thinking about being a judge until college and law school. As a young person, I aspired to be a novelist.
Why aren’t more women today serving as judges?
I believe there is still a cognitive “disconnect” for most people in expecting women to occupy positions of power and control, and that this has slowed the movement of women into the federal and state courts.
Describe a typical day for Utah’s chief justice, or is there such a thing?
My job as chief justice has two components. The first, which I share with all my colleagues on the court, involves working on the cases before us: reading briefs, listening to oral arguments, doing legal research, and drafting and editing opinions.
The other part involves being the CEO of the Utah’s judicial branch of government: worrying about budgets, chairing the Judicial Council, administrative rule-making, attending meetings, and speaking to lawyers and the public about the courts.
Does your work ever keep you awake at night?
Of course my work keeps me awake sometimes at night; court decisions have immediate impact on people—their property, their families, their liberty and sometimes even their lives.
Any guilty pleasures?
I love reading British mysteries.