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First openly lesbian judge confirmed in Utah

Written by Michael Aaron

With her wife and kids in the Utah State Senate Chambers, Camille Neider was confirmed by the Senate as Second District Court judge.

According to Sen. Jim Dabakis, Neider is the first openly lesbian judge confirmed by the Utah Senate.

“HISTORY! Breaking!” Dabakis posted on his Facebook wall. “The Utah Senate just confirmed our first ever openly LGBTQ Judge, Camille Neider. It was an 18-2 vote. Proud of Governor Herbert for the nomination. And for Senate (mostly) for confirmation. This is a terrific woman, and she will be a great judge. Her wife and three children were there for the vote. Utah may be red, but we are not redneck!”

Neider was nominated by Gov. Gary Herbert Nov. 19 to replace Judge Brent West, who is retiring at the end of this year.

“Camille Neider has distinguished herself as a knowledgeable, thoughtful attorney who has experience and skills that will make her a fine jurist,” Gov. Herbert said. “If confirmed, Camille will take the bench following an impressive legal career, and will bring with her a sincere desire to provide public service.”

Neider is currently the managing partner at Hutchison, Neider PC in Ogden, Utah, where she manages a law office that specializes in criminal defense.

From 1998 to 2007, Neider was a deputy Weber County attorney, where she prosecuted and managed all aspects of felony criminal cases and trials, and was responsible for law and motion work, plea negotiations, preliminary hearings, suppression hearings, competency hearings, trials, sentencing and post-sentencing hearings.

From 1996 to 1998, Neider was an attorney with the Utah County Public Defender Association. Neider was also previously an associate attorney with McDougal & Smith Law Offices and was an assistant lecturer at J. Reuben Clark Law School.

Neider completed four clerkships, including for the Utah County attorney, Utah County Public Defender Association, in the Chamber of Michael Hill in London, England and for the Fourth Judicial District Court.

She received a B.A. in political science from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University.

“I am grateful and humbled to be appointed to the Second District Court by Gov. Herbert. I accept the charge to be fair, impartial and dedicated to upholding the rule of law,” Neider said. “I look forward to serving the people of the second district and intend to do all I can to further the integrity and trust the public has in the judiciary.”

Neider ran for election to the Utah House, District 7 in 2014, but lost to incumbent Rep. Justin Fawson. Equality Utah and Planned Parenthood of Utah endorsed her in the race.

Neider was unanimously voted through the Senate Judiciary Committee and was confirmed in an 18–2 vote by the full Senate.

“Going through this process with [Herbert] and with his staff was more than I ever expected,” Neider testified to the committee. “I have spent 22 years in practice specifically avoiding talking about myself.”

Neider said she is not a grandstander or “flashy” and has found that “it never hurts to listen.”

She broke down into tears as she spoke of the day her son was born, saying he aligned himself with her wife, Nancy, who was a University of Utah football lover.

“Sometimes I am the soul Cougar in our immediate family. I have learned that it is okay for our family to cheer for Utah. I have even, at times, cheered for Utah.”

She said she tells that story because she has found it to be a symbol of one of the most valuable experiences of her career.

“I have learned that my perspective is not the only perspective. I have learned that I am not always right. I have learned that my path is not for everyone,” she testified. “I’ve also learned that seeing the other side in my job has provided me with enormous insight and context that not everyone has.”

She said that starting as a public defender was the hardest job she ever had.
She also said she was a better prosecutor because she had been a public defender. She then became a private defense attorney and said she was better at that job because she had been a prosecutor.

“You play better defense when you know the offense,” she said.

She went on to introduce her family who joined her, including her wife and children, parents and siblings.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, was lavish in his praise of Neider.

“I want you to know how positive your recommendations were,” he said. “There was nothing negative; everything was very positive, so I think your fellow lawyers, your fellow judges, all are looking forward to having you join them.”

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross and Rose Park, and chair of the Senate Judicial Committee, also said that others were very positive for her confirmation.

“I’ve had several judges on the second district court contact me, and they have been in support of your confirmation,” Weiler said. “You will be welcomed with open arms. You’ll be the second woman confirmed on the second court. We just confirmed the first a few months ago.”

As a candidate in 2014, Nedier spoke out against the use of family photos by the group Utah Celebration of Marriage showing two men holding their son, and two women with their infant daughter, while event organizer Mary Summerhays made the point that the children “will pay the price of redefining marriage.” Rep. Fawson joined that rally at the Utah Capitol, saying “I strongly support and will continue to defend traditional family values that strengthen our country and our communities,” but added that he has gay friends.

“This is incredibly unkind, underhanded and wrong … to use our families in your cause is certainly morally wrong and may have legal implications,” Neider wrote in a Facebook comment.

Photo courtesy of Sen. Jim Dabakis. Left to right: wife Nancy Hornsby Neider, Camille Neider, their three children and Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake.

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About the author

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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