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Robert J. Shelby: Judge who made gay marriage legal in Utah

Published December 22, 2013 6:30 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby had been on the bench just six months when he was assigned Kitchen v. Herbert in March.

Since Shelby's decision in the case Friday, which made same-sex marriage legal in Utah, legal observers and regular folks alike want to know more about him.

Shelby, 43, was born in Fort Atkinson, Wis. He graduated from Utah State University in 1994 and the University of Virginia School of Law in 1998. He is married to his college sweetheart and has two children.

Shelby was a law clerk for U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene and spent eight years in the Utah Army National Guard. He worked at the Salt Lake City law firms of Snow, Christensen & Martineau and Burbidge Mitchell & Gross before becoming a judge.

He was nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama in November 2011 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Sept. 22, 2012. During the process, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, described Shelby as "pre-eminently qualified" and predicted he would be "an outstanding judge."

In a written response to questions from Senate Judiciary Committee members, Shelby expressed the view that a judge should demonstrate a "strict adherence and fidelity to the rule of law" and "reach decisions based exclusively on the application of established precedent to the specific facts presented."

Asked whether he would follow precedents of higher courts, even if he disagreed personally with those decisions, Shelby answered, "Yes."