ST. GEORGE – 5th District Court Judge G. Michael Westfall was once again among a handful of judges to be honored by the Utah State Bar.
Westfall was one of 10 state court judges who received the Judicial Excellence Award during the Utah State Bar Litigation Section conference Nov. 10 in Moab. Other recipients included a Utah Court of Appeals judge and a Utah Supreme Court justice.
“This award is given to recognize the judges who promote an orderly and civil litigation process and have demonstrated exemplary character and competence in performing their judicial duties,” said Heather Thuet, vice chairwoman of the Litigation Section of the Utah State Bar.
Westfall also received the award in 2015.
Westfall was appointed to serve as a judge of the 5th District Court by then-Gov. Michael O. Leavitt in 2003. He primarily served in Beaver and Iron counties until transferring to the Washington County in 2014 to fill the vacancy left by retiring Judge James Shumate.
Prior to being appointed to the bench, Westfall served as a small claims judge in Washington County from 1998 to 2002 and was a practicing attorney in St. George before that.
“The primary reason I wanted to be a judge was so I could be the one making the decisions instead of living with someone else’s decisions,” Westfall said in a 2014 interview with St. George News. “I had practiced law for about 20 years and was not happy with some decisions, so I decided to put myself in the position to make the decisions.”
Among the more notable cases Westfall came to preside over after moving to Washington County was that of Brandon Perry Smith, one of the defendants in a 2010 double-murder case. Smith was found guilty at trial earlier this year and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the killings.
In the courtroom, Westfall has gained a reputation of being thorough and meticulous, particularly in regard to making sure defendants know their rights and what they’re committing to before entering a plea or taking a deal from the prosecution.
“Westfall is very thorough,” victims advocate Tiffany Mower said, echoing words from 2014 when Westfall came to Washington County. “He makes sure they understand what they’ve gotten into and the consequences of it.”
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Mower said it is “refreshing” when compared to other courtrooms that seemingly move cases along as fast as possible.
“Due process takes time. You’re dealing with people’s lives,” defense attorney Aric Cramer said, adding Westfall is among his favorite judges to present cases to.
Believing that judges weren’t receiving the recognition they deserved, Thuet initiated the Judicial Excellence Award program and has overseen it since its creation in 2014.
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