To: Sen. Weiler, T.,
Subject: Public Comment - Court of Appeals Nominee
I am a resident of Millcreek, Utah and I write to provide public comment and highly recommend that the Senate confirm Margaret Plane to the vacant Utah Court of Appeals position. I have known Ms. Plane for nearly 20 years, working with her for six of those years at Salt Lake City (as Chief Legal Advisor to the Salt Lake City Police Department), and believe that she will be an excellent Court of Appeals judge due to her intellect, temperament, and work ethic. Furthermore, my experience working with her is that she will embody the appellate judge model best described by Chief Justice John Roberts as an umpire who calls balls and strikes.
Personal Qualities and Strengths
Ms. Plane’s personal qualities and strengths will lend themselves well to the role: sense of fairness; excellent legal writing and analysis; calm and even temperament; integrity; intelligence; diplomacy; grace; sense of duty and public service; colleagues and staff enjoyed working with her; and humility.
Quick Study and Broad Legal Experience
Ms. Plane has spent most of her career on the civil side of government legal work. As a result, she may not have direct legal experience with some of the legal topics that may come before the Court. However, based on my experience working with her, I am confident that Ms. Plane would have no trouble learning those disciplines, as needed, for those cases that would come before the Court. The SLC Attorney handles everything from contractual issues to complex civil litigation. Ms. Plane learned it all and was successful in the role.
Reputation and Role Model
Reputation in the Utah Bar is everything, and part and parcel of that is building a reputation for integrity. Ms. Plane believed strongly that we should always strive to do the right thing (not necessarily the legally advantageous thing) in our cases. It has positively influenced the way I approach my role as counselor to my clients. I’m sure that this is one of the many reasons why she was named Lawyer of the Year by the Women Lawyers of Utah.
Balls and Strikes/Applies the Law
During her tenure at SLC, Ms. Plane handled five cases before Utah's appellate courts (compiling a 4-1 record). Her briefs in those matters, particularly in the Bivens v. SLC case, should demonstrate how well she applies legal principles to the relevant facts in specific cases. She often reviewed all important briefing in the office and provided edits to ensure that our briefing adhered to this principle. Court decisions authored by her would undoubtedly do the same.
Grace Under Pressure
Ms. Plane served her final two years as City Attorney under very difficult circumstances with her primary City clients all while dealing with significant legal and personnel matters. She handled those matters with aplomb and always got the work done. In fact, it wasn't until after she left and I became Deputy City Attorney that I realized how well she worked under these various pressures.
Respectful and Thoughtful Colleague
Ms. Plane is the best manager I've known. She listens to her colleagues. She's friendly and welcoming. She engages in group discussions and provides thoughtful perspectives. She's funny. She can empathize with a client's or adversary's position. She always found the time to answer questions. She's humble.
Temperament and Demeanor for the Role
In a particularly high-charged, high-profile matter, Ms. Plane and I met with opposing counsel. During the meeting, opposing counsel made several remarks to us that could be characterized as incendiary, if not insulting. Ms. Plane remained calm throughout and sought to salvage the meeting to see if there could be a way to resolve opposing counsel's concerns. We were unable to do so, but it was a great reminder to me to not let emotions take over and to stay focused upon one's goals.
Professionalism and Civility
Ms. Plane served on various committees devoted to the professional conduct of attorneys. She demanded and expected that her attorneys would always be beyond reproach when it came to adhering to the Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as in our interactions with members of the public. She could cite rules by memory and she practiced what she preached and this fostered a positive team environment.
I believe that Ms. Plane is one of the better-qualified candidates for the Court of Appeals. Her written opinions would be clear, concise, and useful to attorneys and litigants. Her interpersonal skills will serve her well in her interactions with those who appear before her, fellow judges, and Court staff. She also understands that the role requires restraint and an appellate judge should only apply the law to the facts of each case. These are the qualities I would want in any judge who would preside over one of my cases.
Ms. Plane has a history of public service that seeks to elevate the State Bar. She will bring that sense of service to the Court and she would be a wonderful addition to the judiciary.
Mark E. Kittrell
3975 S. Jupiter Dr.
Millcreek, UT 84124