Christine M. Durham

Christine Meaders Durham (born August 3, 1945) is an American lawyer and judge, who served as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court from 1982 to 2017, including service as Chief Justice from 2002 to 2012.

Christine M. Durham
Portrait of Justice Durham
Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court
In office
Preceded byRichard C. Howe
Succeeded byMatthew B. Durrant
Associate Justice of the Utah Supreme Court
In office
In office
Appointed byScott M. Matheson
Preceded byRichard Maughan
Succeeded byPaige Petersen
Personal details
Born (1945-08-03) August 3, 1945 (age 75)
United States
Alma materWellesley College
Duke University School of Law

Early life and educationEdit

Durham is the oldest child of three, and she grew up in Southern California. When she was young, she aspired to be a novelist.[1] Durham's father initially worked for the IRS in Washington, D. C., and in 1960 he became a US Department of the Treasury attaché at the Paris Embassy and the family went to French schools and learned French.

In the early 1960s, Durham moved to New England to attend Wellesley College, a women's college, where she met her husband, George Durham. It was also at this time that she received her patriarchal blessing from the Boston Stake patriarch (she was and is a Mormon), that said things that had a role in her decision to study law.[2] She graduated in 1967 with an A.B. with Honors. She then went to Boston College for law to be near her husband while he finished his undergraduate studies at Harvard. When he was accepted to Duke Medical School, Durham transferred to Duke Law School. She graduated from Duke Law School in 1971.

She is now on the Board of Trustees of Duke University, where she is on the Executive Committee and chairs the Faculty, Graduate and Professional Schools Affairs and Honorary Degree Committees.[3] For a personal account of her early life, see Mormon Women: Portraits and Conversations by James N. Kimball and Kent Miles.

Legal careerEdit

Durham was an Instructor of Legal Medicine at Duke University Medical School immediately after she graduated from law school in 1971 until 1973. She was admitted to the North Carolina State Bar in 1971. She had a general law practice while in North Carolina, representing private clients in domestic law, employment law, and personal injury law work. She also did title law work and criminal defense work off of the county indigency list. While in North Carolina, she was a legal consultant for the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development.[4] She and her husband moved to Utah in 1973, where she became an Adjunct Professor of Law at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School until 1978. At this time she formed a partnership with two other lawyers and founded the law firm of Johnson, Durham, & Moxley.[5] In 1980, the firm merged with a larger firm in Salt Lake City. She also occasionally teaches constitutional law at the University of Utah’s S. J. Quinney College of Law.

Durham is on the Council of the American Law Institute[6] and the American Bar Association’s Council of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. She is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and serves on the Board of Directors of both the American Judicature Society and the National Center for State Courts.[7]

Judicial careerEdit

In 1978, Durham became a trial judge in the 3rd Judicial District Court for the state of Utah. She served for four years, one of them as the presiding judge.[8] She was appointed as a Justice of the Utah Supreme Court by Governor Scott M. Matheson in 1982 [1] and became the Chief Justice in April 2002. She resigned as Chief Justice in March 2012.[9] She was the first female Chief Justice of a state to swear into office a female governor, when Olene Walker became Utah’s 15th governor.

Durham was retained by Utah voters in retention elections in 1984, 1994, 2004, and 2014.[10][11][12][13]

In May 2017, Durham announced that she would retire from the Utah Supreme Court in November 2017.[14] She was succeeded on the bench by Paige Petersen.[15]

Justice Durham wrote majority opinions and dissenting opinions in many cases. For a full list of Justice Durham's Utah Supreme Court decisions, go to


In the case of In the Matter of the Adoption of W. A. T., et al., 808 P.2d 1083, 1085 State v. Holm (Utah 1991), Justice Durham protected the civil rights of polygamists. The decision held that the Utah Constitution does not per se preclude a polygamist family from adopting children. Justice Durham, writing for the 3-2 court, noted, "The fact that our constitution requires the state to prohibit polygamy does not necessarily mean that the state must deny any or all civil rights and privileges to polygamists." She noted that many things are crimes like polygamy, but we extend civil rights to perpetrators of those crimes. She stated, "It is not the role of the courts to make threshold exclusions dismissing without consideration, for example, the adoption petitions of all convicted felons, all persons engaging in fornication or adultery, or other persons engaged in illegal activities." [16] The decision also upheld the constitutionality of the bigamy statute in the Utah Constitution.

Fetal RightsEdit

In the case of State v. MacGuire, 84 P.3d 1171 (Utah 2004)[17] in 2004 the Utah Supreme Court ruled that all fetuses are covered under the state's criminal homicide statute. Though she agreed with that premise, Justice Durham dissented based on the definition of the capital murder and aggravated murder charges as well as based on the US Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade. "Declaring a fetus to be a 'person' entitled to equal protection would require not only overturning Roe v. Wade but also making abortion, as a matter of constitutional law, illegal in all circumstances, even to save the life of the mother." [18]


Durham is a proponent of first looking to the Utah Constitution before the Federal Constitution for protection of an individual's rights. In her concurrence to State v. Daniels, 40 P.3d 611, 626 (Utah 2002), she stated, “I continue to be a proponent of independent state constitutional analysis on federalism grounds, believing we should use a primacy approach or dual analysis approach whenever possible.” In State v. Larocco, 794 P.2d 460 (Utah 1990), however, Justice Durham recognized the duality of the American system. Justice Durham, in her majority opinion, explained that states may rest their analysis on state constitution first because it “may prove to be an appropriate method for insulating citizens from the vagaries of inconsistent interpretations given . . . by the federal courts.” [19]

Gun RightsEdit

In the case of University of Utah v. Shurtleff, 144 P.3d 1109 (Utah 2006).,[20] the Utah Supreme Court ruled in a 4-1 decision that the University of Utah has no right to ban guns on campus, rejecting the argument that prohibiting firearms is part of the school's power to control academic affairs. In her dissent, Chief Justice Durham said policies that are reasonably connected to the school's academic mission are within its autonomous authority over academic affairs. Under the majority analysis, she said, "the university may not subject a student to academic discipline for flashing his pistol to a professor in class." [21]

Publications and SpeechesEdit

Justice Durham has published numerous articles and is a frequent lecturer on the judiciary, women's issues, and civic education. She helped draft a manual on legal rights of the elderly. Also, as a former head of the Judiciary Branch of Utah, she gave annual State of the Judiciary addresses to the legislative branch of the state. She has spoken at various conventions, including the 2010 Spring Convention of the Utah State Bar,[22] the 2010 National Conference of the American Bar Association,[23] and the 123rd Jackson Lecture in 2009.[24]

Community ServiceEdit

Durham served on the Governor's Task Force that recommended legislation to implement the 1985 amendments to the Judicial Article of the Utah Constitution. She served on the Utah Constitutional Revision Commission for 12 years. As Chief Justice, she chaired the Utah Judicial Council, which is the administrative governing body of the state court system. She served as the first chair of the Utah Judicial Council's Education Committee. She was the Founder of the Leadership Institute in Judicial Education. She was part of the Commission on Justice in the 21st Century and the Co-chair of the Committee on Improving Jury Service. She was the first Chair of the Utah State Court's Public Outreach Committee. From 1986 to 1997 she was the President of the National Association of Women Judges, which organization she founded.[25] She was on the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[26] She is the immediate past President of the Conference of Chief Justices, and is the first Utahn to be elected to this position.[27] She is the leader of the Coalition for Civic, Character, and Service Learning - a partnership between civic organizations, public education, the judicial branch, and the legal profession to improve education about the justice system in Utah public schools.

Durham was elected to the American Law Institute in 1984 and was elected to the ALI Council in 1989. She has served as an Adviser on Restatement Third, Employment Law and as a Member Consultant on Model Penal Code: Sentencing and Model Penal Code: Sexual assault and Related Offenses.

Recognized nationally for her work in Judicial Education, Christine Durham currently serves on the board of trustees for the University of the People. Her excellence has been a critical factor in helping establish the world's first non-profit, tuition-free, online academic institution that seeks to revolutionize higher education by making college-level studies accessible to students worldwide.


Christine Durham has been recognized nationally for her work in judicial education and efforts to improve the administration of justice. In 2007, Durham received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, one of the most prestigious judicial honors in the country.[28] She is the only Utahn to have received this award to date. The award is presented annually to a state court judge who exemplifies the highest level of judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics. Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts presented the award to Durham on 15 November 2007 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Chief Justice Roberts said, "Chief Justice Durham has demonstrated her commitment to public service, judicial education, and the cause of justice throughout her 25 years on the Utah Supreme Court. She reflects those qualities that Chief Justice Rehnquist valued during his distinguished career.” President Mary C. McQueen of the National Center for State Courts said Durham was selected because of her “innovative leadership style and her contributions to advancing judicial branch education not only in Utah, but nationally.” Justice Durham is noted for developing interactive education programs in content areas that previously did not have curriculum, such as domestic violence, child witness testimony, and scientific evidence. She has received honorary degrees from the University of Utah, Utah Valley University,[29] Weber State University, Salt Lake Community College, and the College of Eastern Utah.

Academic Board and Advisory PositionsEdit

University of the People (Member of Board of Trustees) [30]

Personal lifeEdit

Durham is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[31] Her husband, George Durham, is a pediatrician and they have five children. George Durham has served as a bishop in the LDS Church.

See alsoEdit

Kimball, James N. and Miles, Kent. Mormon Women: Portraits and Conversations. 1st ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Handcart Books, 2009. 184-209. Print. Utah Bar News Albany Law Review


  1. ^ City Weekly
  2. ^ "Prestigious honor", Church News December 22, 2007.
  3. ^ [Kimball, James N. and Miles, Kent. Mormon Women: Portraits and Conversations. 1st ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Handcart Books, 2009. 184-209. Print.]
  4. ^ Duke News
  5. ^ See Fn 1, supra
  6. ^ American Law Institute - Christine M. Durham
  7. ^ Utah Court Website
  8. ^
  9. ^ Davidson, Lee. "Durham to step down as chief justice of Utah Supreme Court." Salt Lake Tribune. Available at
  10. ^ "General Election Report" (PDF). Utah Lieutenant Governor: Elections. State of Utah. November 6, 1984. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  11. ^ "State of Utah General Election 1994" (PDF). Utah Lieutenant Governor: Elections. State of Utah. November 29, 1994. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  12. ^ "General Election Report" (PDF). Utah Lieutenant Governor: Elections. State of Utah. November 2, 2004. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  13. ^ "General Election Report". Utah Lieutenant Governor: Elections. State of Utah. November 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  14. ^ Manson, Pamela (May 2, 2017). "Utah Supreme Court's first female judge retiring from the bench". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, UT. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  15. ^ Wieber, Aubrey (November 16, 2017). "Paige Petersen unanimously confirmed to join Utah Supreme Court". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, UT. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  16. ^ Archived 2010-09-19 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^
  18. ^ Deseret News Jan. 2004
  19. ^ Albany Law Review Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Utah Bar Archived 2011-07-25 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ American Bar Association
  24. ^ National Judicial College[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ NcsOnline website Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Christine M. Durham, Utah State Court Gallery of Judges
  27. ^ see Fn 7, supra
  28. ^ see Fn 8, supra
  29. ^ Archived 2016-10-22 at the Wayback Machine, page 3 section 11.I
  30. ^
  31. ^ Mormon Literature Database listing for Durham