Attorneys and Judges are Held to Higher Standard

The Case of Terry Jackson Mitchell v. (Former Federal Prosecutor and Judge) Richard Roberts: On the Higher Standard to Which Attorneys and Judges are Held

By Ken K. Gourdin

Noted Utah defense attorney Greg Skordas recently published an Op-Ed in the Deseret News in which he discusses the evolution of sex crime laws in the state of Utah and the impact that evolution has had on defendants.  Terry Jackson Mitchell was friends with one of the African-American men shot by racist and murderer Joseph Paul Franklin in Salt Lake City in 1980.  The U.S. Justice Department sent Richard Roberts, then an attorney, to Salt Lake City to assist in Franklin’s prosecution.  Ms. Mitchell testified at Franklin’s trial, after which Roberts had an intimate relationship with the-then-16-year-old Ms. Mitchell (who says Roberts pressured her into being intimate with him), and that relationship now is the subject of litigation (a suit filed by Ms. Mitchell).

I previously commented on the tragedy weathered by Ms. Mitchell on the blog, and that post can be found here (this and all other links last accessed March 30, 2016):  Mr. Skordas’s piece can be found at the following address:  I commented on Mr. Skordas’s piece as follows:

From Mr. Skordas’s Op-Ed: “As an attorney, I applaud the fact that the Attorney General’s Office had the courage to take on this investigation, knowing that … the perpetrator is a man of honor and distinction such that the findings could be devastating to his career.”

Granted, Judge Roberts has neither been convicted of crime(s) nor found civilly liable for his conduct toward Terry Jackson Mitchell. As much as I’d like to hold my tongue while awaiting the outcome of further proceedings, however, as a member of the Bar (much less of the bench, at least later in his career), Judge Roberts justifiably is held to a much higher standard, one whose adherents are supposed to avoid, not only impropriety (much less crime), but also even the very appearance of impropriety. While it may not have been realistic for anyone to expect him to fall on his sword when he was considered for more responsible positions later in his career by confessing to criminal conduct, at the very least, he could have declined to be considered for such positions, or he could have removed his name from consideration for the ever-reliable “personal reasons.”


About kenngo1969

Just as others must breathe to live, I must write. I have been writing creatively almost ever since I learned to write, period! I have written fiction, book- and article-length nonfiction, award-winning poetry, news, sports, features, and op-eds. I hope, one day, to write some motivational nonfiction, a decent-selling novel, a stage play, and a screen play.
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