Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Box Elder judge censured, ordered to pay back excess salary
Box Elder » Utah Supreme Court upholds recommendation of judicial conduct panel.
First Published May 21 2013 01:52 pm • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:32 pm

The Utah Supreme Court censured a judge Tuesday because he made too much money for three consecutive years.

Box Elder County justice court judge Kevin Christensen’s salary exceeded the legal limit of $132,150 from 2009 through 2011, a Utah Supreme Court decision states. Christensen will now have to pay back the extra salary and has been formally censured.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Judicial Conduct Commission (JCC) executive director Colin R. Winchester said Tuesday that Christensen will have to pay back $22,172. He has three years to return the money without accruing interest. Winchester also called the censure the "most severe" penalty a judge can face without being suspended or removed from office.

Christensen did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday. His attorney declined to comment.

Christensen serves as a judge in the Box Elder County, Willard, Garland and Tremonton justice courts, all of which contribute independently to his salary. In 2009, Christensen’s pay from his positions on various benches added up to $139,908; in 2010 and 2011, his salary was $139,360 and $139,354, respectively.

Those numbers are higher than the yearly income of Utah’s district court judges, which is $132,150. Per state law, justice court judges can’t make more money than district court judges.

The Supreme Court decision states that Christensen learned his salary was too high in 2010. He claimed to have immediately contacted municipal leaders to discuss the issue, the decision adds, but after several months his salary still hadn’t gone down.

As a result, the JCC issued formal charges against Christensen in November 2011. Winchester said that by May 2012 Christensen and the JCC had agreed to a "negotiated resolution" to the case that involved the censure and the requirement to repay the money.

Christensen then appealed to the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the salary cap. Justices declined to address that issue in their ruling while supporting the JCC’s recommendations for censure and repayment.

The decision says that as of January 2012, Christensen’s salary no longer exceeded the legal cap.

story continues below
story continues below

Winchester said Christensen will have to work with municipal leaders to determine who gets the money he pays back. Winchester also said he doubted that Christensen intentionally earned too much, though he could have handled the issue better.

"I think he was aware of the problem and could have taken care of it much faster than he did," Winchester said.

Christensen’s censure will have little real-world impact on his career until he comes up for retention. At that time, Winchester said, the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission will look at Christensen’s record and make a recommendation to voters about whether they should keep him on the bench. It will then be up to voters.

Representatives for the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Christensen was appointed to the Box Elder County Justice Court in May 1996. He is a graduate of Weber State University and the Gonzaga University School of Law. He was in private practice before being appointed to the bench.


Twitter: @jimmycdii

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.