Brigham Young University law professor Thomas R. Lee is one step closer to being appointed to the Utah Supreme Court, and if he gets there, he plans to stay.
The 45-year-old professor and high-powered attorney, who has never served as a judge, said he sees himself on the state's highest court 20 years from now.
"I won't being going to the court as any stepping stone to anywhere else," he told the Senate Judicial Committee during a three-hour confirmation hearing Tuesday.
The committee voted 5-0 in favor of Lee's confirmation.
During the hearing, Lee told the committee he would faithfully interpret the laws of Utah and not legislate from the bench. He said individual judges interpret laws, they don't make them.
Lee agreed with Sen. Karen Mayne that the Constitution was flexible or interpretive, but it wasn't a "growing animal" or a living Constitution, except in how it applies to a new set of facts.
A judge's role, he said, was to apply the principles in the Constitution as it was written and handed down historically.
Lee has received praise for his keen legal mind and depth of academic experience.
Lee joined Brigham Young University's law school faculty in 1997 and has taught courses in civil procedure, intellectual property and legal interpretation and analysis. He has published articles on trademark and copyright law.
"I'm proud of the work I've done," he said. "I've been a tireless worker."
Lee's father, Rex Lee, served as solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan and president of Brigham Young University. His younger brother, Mike Lee, is running in a Republican primary against Tim Bridgewater for the U.S. Senate seat held by three-term Sen. Bob Bennett.
Like his father, Thomas Lee said he is skilled in taking complex legal principles and expressing them in easy to understand ways, clearly and simply. He has also learned from his father how to keep an open mind, he said.
Lee said it was important to have, "open ears and open eyes to both sides of a case."
When asked by Senate President Michael Waddoups if a judge can make the law say whatever you want it to say, Lee replied, "absolutely not." That's a judge that believes in judicial activism, Lee said.