On Monday, July 3, 2023, a retired Utah County judge who retaliated against court staff for cooperating with an investigation into his misconduct has been publicly censured by the state’s Supreme Court. Hon. Stevan Ridge, former judge of Utah County Justice Court, sent threatening emails to his employees after learning that they had spoken to the Judicial Conduct Commission about his behavior.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Stevan Ridge” with case no. 22-4JC-072.
The censure against Judge Ridge was issued due to his retaliatory actions, specifically sending a threatening email to Utah County Justice Court staff members who had cooperated with an investigation against him. While a more severe punishment like removal would have been warranted if he hadn’t retired, his retirement prompted the censure instead. The commission found that Ridge’s conduct violated several provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct, bringing his judicial office into dispute.
The Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law states:
“As Judge Ridge’s proposed June 1, 2022, retirement was nearing On May 12, 2022, Judge Ridge sent the following email to Utah County Justice Court staff:
Just so all of you are on the same page, I am not retiring because I want to, I am leaving because several staff members here at the court filed complaints against me. The judicial conduct commission acted on those complaints and are requiring that I retire. Those staff members know who they are and I know too because their names were listed in the report. Thanks for playing the character assassination game, appreciate ya.”
The Findings of Fact and Conclusion of the Law continue:
“Judge Ridge’s actions constitute conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings a judicial office into disrepute, in violation of Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution of Utah and Utah Code Ann. 578A-11-105(1)(e).”
In May 2022, Ridge agreed to retire and accept the censure as part of a settlement for his earlier misconduct. Despite this history, he continued to engage in misconduct. The commission concluded that Ridge’s actions had harmed the perception of fairness and impartiality in the judicial system, and his lack of remorse and acceptance of responsibility further contributed to the need for a strong sanction.
The Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law further states:
“Judge Ridge intentionally, willfully, or with bad faith engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings a judicial office into disrepute in violation of UCA Judge Ridge has not accepted responsibility for his actions and has not expressed remorse for any harm his actions may have caused, and has not been cooperative in the investigation of new JCC matter #22-4JC-072.”
After taking into account these various factors, along with the presence of two prior sanctions, and Ridge’s refusal to acknowledge responsibility or cooperate, the Supreme Court deemed a public censure to be appropriate.
The Disposition states:
“Pursuant to the authority vested in the Supreme Court by Article VIII, Section 13 of the Utah Constitution and Utah Code Section 78A-11-111, the Court approves the implementation of the Judicial Conduct Commission’s Order of Public Censure. The Court orders that the complaints, papers, testimony, and record of the Commission’s hearing are no longer confidential under Utah Code Section 78A-11-112. In response to footnote 1 of the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the Court clarifies that censure is a more severe discipline than a reprimand.”
Judge Ridge was a justice court judge who served in Heber City and Utah County. He has a background in law enforcement and local politics, having worked as a police officer and a mayor. He is a graduate of Utah State University and Weber State University. He also completed the Legal Institute for Justice Court Judges and served two terms as education director for the 4th District Justice Court Judges. If you want to learn more about Judge Stevan Ridge, you can visit his official profile on the Utah Courts website.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.