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Sutherland v. Hatch: Whose name on new federal courthouse?

Downtown » Senator says he doesn’t want to be involved while lawyer says name the building after only Utahn to sit on U.S. Supreme Court.

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Sutherland stepped down from the bench in 1938 and died four years later.

His bust now sits in the existing federal court’s foyer, a gift from Snow, Christensen & Martineau after its 2011 celebration of his life, where Judge Stewart was one of the dignitaries who honored Sutherland, joking he was speaking because Hatch had a scheduling conflict.

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After the event, Morse and his politically active adviser, Sylvia Haro, asked friendly state lawmakers to push a resolution requesting that Utah’s congressional delegation help name the courthouse after Sutherland.

It passed unanimously this year, and neither sponsor — state Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Tayorsville, nor state Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan — ever heard from anyone associated with Hatch.

"I would have suspected if Senator Hatch was interested in it, he would have contacted people and said, ‘Not so fast.’ But I didn’t hear anything," said Hillyard, an attorney and the longest-serving state senator.

But that doesn’t mean Hatch supporters didn’t take action.

Back-to-back• Around the same time the Legislature was voting on the resolution, the nine district judges led by Ted Stewart voted in a private meeting to name the largest courtroom in the new building after Sutherland. They also decided to put the bust from Snow, Christensen & Martineau at its front door — a strong hint they think the building should be named after someone else.

Morse said he appreciates the honor but doesn’t think it goes far enough. After the Legislature passed the resolution, he began setting up meetings with each of Utah’s four House members and two senators.

Like Chris Stewart, Republican Sen. Mike Lee supports naming the building after Hatch. "It is difficult to think of anyone who has served in the Senate who has had a greater impact on the federal judiciary than Orrin Hatch," said Lee.

Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, is also open to that. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, plans to defer to colleagues as the building isn’t in his congressional district. That leaves Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, a former state House speaker who gives serious weight to the recommendations of the Legislature. He met with Morse in April and is considering whether to run a bill.

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"I haven’t decided yet," said Bishop. "Sutherland is worthy, other people are worthy."

But Bishop puzzled over the tussle.

"It is the ugliest building in Salt Lake City. Why would anyone want their name attached to that thing?"

After two decades of planning and scraping for federal funding, dignitaries, including Hatch, broke ground on the new courthouse in early 2011. The glass cube has 10 floors but appears far taller because of some extraordinarily high ceilings.

It sits next to the 108-year-old classical granite courthouse named in 1990 for Sen. Frank Moss, a three-term Democrat, whom Hatch defeated in 1976. The Moss Building will become the federalbankruptcy court in March.

The idea that the shiny new courthouse would be named for his father’s nemesis is something Brian Moss accepts even if he doesn’t particularly like it.

"I guess it seems a little bit awkward to some that they would be back-to-back there," he said. "On the other hand, they both gave long service to the U.S. Senate."


Twitter: @mattcanham

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