Agency History #868


The first establishment of a Supreme Court for the area now known as Utah was in the State of Deseret, a political entity organized "until the Congress of the United States shall provide for the Government of the Territory" (Deseret Const., preamble). Article IV of the Constitution of Deseret provided for a three-member Supreme Court. The awaited action of the United States Congress came in 1850. "An Act to Establish a Territorial Government for Utah" (9 Stat. 453, hereafter Organic Act) was passed on September 9, 1850. Section 9 of the act provided that "the judicial power of said territory shall be vested in a Supreme Court, District Court, and Justices of the Peace." The establishment of the territorial courts through Congressional action is authorized by the United States Constitution (Art. III, §1, Art. IV, §3).


Initially, the Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of Deseret were to act as conservators of the peace and exercise other jurisdictions and appellate powers as prescribed by law. Under the Organic Act, the Utah Supreme Court was to act primarily as an appellate court. At Statehood, the Court was vested with non-exclusive original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus, certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto, and habeas corpus. In all other cases, the Court was vested with appellate jurisdiction only.

Under the Constitution of Deseret, the Justices of the Supreme Court were responsible to act as "conservators of the peace throughout the State [of Deseret], and shall exercise other jurisdictions and appellate powers as shall be prescribed by law" (Deseret Const., Art. IV, §3). As provided in the Organic Act, the Utah Supreme Court was to act primarily as an appellate court. Cases could be brought from the territorial district courts to the Supreme Court on appeal, writ of error, or bill of exception. Jury trials were expressly forbidden in the Territorial Supreme Court. Appeal from the Territorial Supreme Court could be taken to the United States Supreme Court. Subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court extended to all cases arising out of common, chancery, and statutory law. Members of the Court were individually authorized to grant writs of habeas corpus under the same conditions and in the same circumstances as federal judges in the District of Columbia.

The transformation into a State Supreme Court under the State Constitution saw changes in the jurisdiction of the Court. The Court was vested with non-exclusive original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus, certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto, and habeas corpus. The authority to issue a writ of habeas corpus was also vested in the members of the Court individually. In all other cases, the Court was vested with appellate jurisdiction only (Ut. Const., Art. VIII, §§4, 7).

Passage of legislation in the 1896 legislature (L. 1896, ch. VII) provided additional direction for the Court. The Court was specifically granted the authority to "reverse, affirm or modify any order or judgment appealed from and may direct the proper judgment or order to be entered, or direct a new trial or further proceedings to be had" (§3). The decisions of the Court were also required to be filed with the Clerk of the Court in writing. In the event the Court was evenly divided on any particular issue, the order of the lower court would stand (§5).

In 1907, the Court was required to remit appeals back to the court from which the appeal was taken (L. 1907, ch. 161). This means that after hearing an appeal, the records of the case and the decision of the Court would be sent back to the original trial court. The trial court would then enter a new judgment in the case or retry the case, as directed in the order from the Supreme Court.


Three justices were elected to four year terms by the General Assembly of the State of Deseret. Under the Organic Act, the chief justice and two associate justices were appointed by the U.S. President with Senate ratification. Members also served as the presiding judge of one of Utah's district courts. At statehood in 1896, the three justices were elected to staggered six-year terms; the justices were no longer required to sit as judges in district courts. After 1905, the Legislature could expand court membership to five. The Court had the authority to appoint its own bailiffs and clerk.

Under the Constitution of Deseret, the three members of the Court were elected by the General Assembly to serve four-year terms. As constituted in the Organic Act, the Court still consisted of three members, one chief justice and two associate justices. Justices were appointed by the President of the United States, subject to U. S. Senate ratification (U.S. Const., Art. II, §2), to four-year terms. Members also served as the presiding judge of one of Utah's district courts, and were required to reside in the district in which they presided. Business was allowed to be conducted by any two of the judges. The Clerk of the Court was appointed by the members of the court and served at the pleasure of the justices.

An Enabling Act (28 Stat. 107) was passed by the Congress in 1894 which authorized the calling of a convention for the purpose of drafting a constitution for Utah, as required for statehood. Section 17 of the Enabling Act provided for the transformation of the territorial courts into state courts. The state courts which could be created by the constitution in the convention would be the successors to and inherit the pending litigation of the territorial courts. The Enabling Act also provided that any litigation pending prior to admission of Utah as a State would be tried according to the territorial laws.

Utah was admitted as a State on 4 January 1896 by proclamation of President Grover Cleveland, thus approving the constitution drafted by a convention in the spring of 1895 and ratified by popular vote in November 1895. The Utah Supreme Court was thus transferred to a State Supreme Court with authority specified by the Utah State Constitution.

Under the State Constitution, the Court was to consist of three justices, elected to staggered terms of 6 years. The constitution provided that after 1905, the Legislature could expand the membership of the Court to five (Ut. Const., Art. VIII, §2).

A majority of the members of the Court constituted a quorum to conduct business. In the event any member of the Court was disqualified from hearing a case, the remaining justices were to "call a district judge to sit with them on the hearing of such cause" (Ut. Const., Art. VIII, §2). In the event all justices were disqualified from hearing a case, the Court was charged with the responsibility of calling three district court judges to serve (L. 1896, ch. VII, §3). Supreme Court justices were no longer required to sit as judges in district courts.

Qualifications were imposed on the members of the Court. In order to be eligible to serve on the Court, an individual must be 30 years old and, prior to the election, "shall be a member of the bar, learned in the law, and a resident of the Territory or State of Utah for five years next preceding his election" (Ut. Const. Art. VIII, §3).

The Court was vested with the authority to appoint its own bailiffs and clerk, all of whom were removable at the pleasure of the Court. The Clerk of the Court was charged with the responsibility of maintaining "a complete record of all the proceedings of the court." The clerk was empowered to administer oaths, issue process and writs, make transcripts, and certify records under the seal of the court. He was to allow any opinion or decision of the court to be reviewed; however, no written opinion of the court was to leave his office. The clerk was also to act as the State Law Librarian, to adjourn the Court if no justices were present, to appoint deputy clerks as necessary, to collect certain fees in advance, and to deposit those fees in the State Treasury (L. 1896, ch. VII, §§6-13, 17).

The Court was empowered to call upon the service of any county sheriff and to publish rules regulating procedure and the practice of law, provided that those rules did not conflict with statute (§§ 16, 18). The Court was directed to meet for its first term on January 20, 1896, "or as soon thereafter as the justices of the court shall fix" (§15). It is ironic that the legislation containing this directive was not approved until February 3, 1896.

The Court was required to hold three sessions per year by the original constitution (Art. VIII, §4). The dates for the beginning of those terms was set in 1899 by the State Legislature (L. 1899, ch. 77).



Joseph Buffington, 1850 [did not take office]
Lemuel G. Brandeberg (Also spelled Brandenbury or Bradenbury), 12 March 1851
Lazarus H. Reed, 31 August 1852
John F. Kinney, 24 August 1853
Delana R. Eckels, 13 July 1857
John F. Kinney, 27 June 1860
John Titus, 6 May 1863
Charles C. Wilson, 25 July 1868
James B. McKean, 17 June 1870
David P. Lowe, 19 March 1875
Alexander White, 11 September 1875
Michael Schaeffer, 20 April 1876
John A. Hunter, 1 July 1879
Charles S. Zane, 1 Sep 1884
Elliott Sandford, 1888
Charles S. Zane, 1889
Samuel A. Merritt, 1894


Charles S. Zane, 1896-1899
George W. Bartch, 1899-1901
James A. Miner, 1901-1903
Robert N. Baskin, 1903-1905
George W. Bartch, 1905-1906
William M. McCarty, 1906-1908
Daniel N. Straup, 1908-1910
Joseph E. Frick, 1910-1912
William M. McCarty, 1912-1915
Daniel N. Straup, 1915-1917
Joseph E. Frick, 1917-1919
Elmer E. Corfman, 1919-1923
Albert J. Weber, 1923-1925
Valentine Gideon, 1925-1927
Samuel R. Thurman, 1927-1929
James W. Cherry, 1929-1933
Daniel N. Straup, 1933-1935
Elias Hansen, 1935-1937
William H. Folland, 1937-1939
David W. Moffat, 1939-1943
James H. Wolfe, 1943-1944
Martin M. Larson, 1945-1946
Roger I. McDonough, 1947-1948
Eugene C. Pratt, 1949-1951
James H. Wolfe, 1951-1954
Roger I. McDonough, 1954-1959
J. Allen Crockett, 1959-1961
Lester M. Wade, 1961-1963
F. Henri Henriod, 1963-1967
J. Allen Crockett, 1967-1970
E. R. Callister, 1971-1975
F. Henri Henriod, 1975-1976
A. H. Ellett, 1977-1979
J. Allen Crockett, 1979-1981
Richard J. Maughan, 1981
Gordon R. Hall, 1981-1994
Michael D. Zimmerman, 1994-1998
Richard C. Howe, 1998-



Perry E. Brochus, 1850-1851
Zerubbabel Snow, 1850-1854
Leonidas Shaver, 1852-1854
George P. Stiles, 1854-1857
William Wormer Drummond (One source lists name as C. W. Drummond), 1854-1857
Emery D. Potter, 1857
Charles E. Sinclair, 1857-1860
John Cradlebaugh, 1858-1861
R. P. Flenniken, 1860-1861
Henry R. Crosbie, 1860-1861
Charles P. Waite (Sources disagree on middle initial. May have been B. or D.), 1862-1864
Thomas J. Drake, 1862-1869
Solomon P. McCurdy, 1864-1868
Enos D. Hoge, 1868-1869
Obed F. Strickland, 1869-1873
Cyrus M. Hawley, 1869-1873
Phillip H. Emerson, 1873-1876
John M. Coghlan, 1876-1880
Jacob S. Boreman, 1873-1880
Orlando W. Powers, 1885-1886
Stephen R. Twiss, 1880-1884
Jacob S. Boreman, 1885-1889
Henry P. Henderson, 1886-1889
John W. Judd, 1888-1889
Thomas J. Anderson, 1889-1893
John W. Blackburn, 1889-1893
George W. Bartch, 1893-1894
Harvey W. Smith, 1893-1895
William H. King, 1894-1896
Henry H. Rolapp, 1895-1896


George W. Bartch, 1896-1899
James A. Miner, 1896-1901
Robert N. Baskin, 1899-1903
George W. Bartch, 1901-1905
William M. McCarty, 1903-1906
Daniel N. Straup, 1905-1908
Joseph E. Frick, 1906-1910
William M. McCarty, 1908-1912
Daniel N. Straup, 1910-1915
Joseph E. Frick, 1913-1917
William M. McCarty, 1915-1918
Elmer E. Corfman, 1917-1919
Samuel R. Thurman, 1917-1927
Valentine Gideon, 1917-1925
Joseph E. Frick, 1919-1927
Albert J. Weber, 1919-1923
James W. Cherry, 1923-1929
Daniel N. Straup, 1925-1933
Elias Hansen, 1927-1935
William H. Folland, 1929-1937
Ephraim Hanson, 1929-1938
David W. Moffat, 1933-1939
James H. Wolfe, 1935-1943
Martin M. Larson, 1937-1944
Roger I. McDonough, 1939-1946
David W. Moffat, 1943-1944
James H. Wolfe, 1945-1951
Roger I. McDonough, 1949-1954
Eugene C. Pratt, 1941-1948 (Was on military leave, 1942-1946)
Lester M. Wade, 1943-1961
Abe W. Turner, 1944-1946
J. Allen Crockett, 1951-1959
F. Henri Henriod, 1951-1963
George W. Latimer, 1954-1959
George W. Worthen, 1954-1959
E. R. Callister, 1959-1971
Roger I. McDonough, 1959-1966
J. Allen Crockett, 1961-1967
Lester M. Wade, 1963-1966
R. L. Tuckett, 1966-1976
A. H. Ellett, 1967-1977
F. Henri Henriod, 1967-1975
J. Allen Crockett, 1971-1979
Richard J. Maughan, 1975-1981
D. Frank Wilkins, 1976-1980
Gordon R. Hall, 1977-1981
I. Daniel Stewart, 1979-
Richard C. Howe, 1980-1998
Dallin Harris Oaks, 1981-1984
Christine M. Durham, 1982-
Michael D. Zimmerman, 1984-1993
Richard C. Howe, 1988-1993
Leonard H. Russon, 1994-
Michael D. Zimmerman, 1998-


Ezra T. Sprague, 1876-ca. 1890
Joseph P. Bache, ca. 1890-1895
Ledyard M. Bailey, 1895-1896
Lilburn P. Palmer, 1896-ca. 1904
Harry W. Griffith, ca. 1904-1929
Leland M. Cummings, 1929-1974
Allan E. Mecham, 1974-1976
Geoffery J. Butler, 1976-1997
Patricia H. Bartholomew, 1997-


Albert Hagan, 1876-1880 (series 1, vols. 1-2)
Zera Snow, 1881-1884 (vol. 3)
John A. Marshall, 1884-1886 (vol. 4)
John M. Zane, 1886-1894 (vols. 4-9)
James A. Williams, 1894-1896 (vols. 10-12)
Joseph M. Tanner, 1896-1899 (vols. 13-17)
George L. Nye, 1898-1902 (vols. 18-23)
John Walcott Thompson, 1902-1905 (vols. 24-28)
A. B. Edler, 1905-1908 (vols. 29-34)
Alonzo Blair Irvine, 1908-1911 (vols. 35-39)
Harmel L. Pratt, 1911-1918 (vols. 40-52)
W. S. Dalton, 1918-1925 (vols. 54-65)
H. A. Rich, 1925-1936 (vols. 66-89)
Arthur J. Mays, 1936-1937 (vols. 90-92)
Paul G. Ellis, 1937-1950 (vols. 93-117)
Dean W. Sheffield, 1950-1959 (vols. 119-123; 2d series, vols. 1-8 )
Leland M. Cummings, 1959-1974 (2d series, vols. 9-29)
Allan E. Mecham, 1974-1976 (2d series, vol. 30)
Geoffery J. Butler, 1976- 1997
Patricia H. Bartholomew, 1997-

COMPILED BY: Paul G. C. Smith, May 1998


Ashton, Clifford L. The Federal Judiciary in Utah . Salt Lake City: Utah Bar Foundation, 1988.

Julian, Stephen W. "The Utah State Supreme Court and its Justices, 1896-1976" Utah Historical Quarterly . 44 (1976): 297-286.

Magleby, James E., Esq. and John M. Peterson, Esq. Justices of the Utah Supreme Court, 1896-1996. Salt Lake City: Quality Press, Inc., 1997.

Poll, Richard D., et al. Utah's History . Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1978.

Utah Supreme Court. Utah Reports, 1851-1979. Utah State Archives Series 1481.

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.