College of Law graduates Paul Boyden (Class of 1975) and Ann Boyden (Class of 1987) have each made their mark in the legal world, navigating law practices, community service, and a judgeship while raising a family. They shared their law school experiences in their own words in an interview with alumni relations director Lori Nelson after recently retiring.
“I started law school in 1972, a few months after Ann and I were married. As we did not attend law school at the same time, we are both in a position to settle the ancient debate as to whether attending law school and taking the Bar exam is more difficult on the student or the supporting spouse. The unanimous verdict? It is definitely harder on the supporting spouse.
Now that we have settled that: I went to law school because I needed a way to earn a living, and a legal education seemed like it would give me a broad range of options. Exactly halfway through law school, I was getting pretty weary of the grind and wondered if I was on the right track. At that point, I had the exceptional opportunity to be an intern for Congressman Wayne Owens who was on the House Judiciary Committee and deep into the hearings regarding the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. My assignment was to research various issues regarding impeachment. I learned a couple of things very quickly: First, if one wishes to converse with a lawmaker, it is necessary to develop a facility for giving a concise and persuasive summary while walking with the lawmaker from one meeting to the next. This was more important to the rest of my career than I could have imagined. Second, I learned that in communicating with other staffers it became readily apparent whether the person with whom I was speaking had a legal education. After a while, I made something of a game of it and found that my first impressions were nearly always accurate. That, as much as anything, gave me the motivation to finish law school with relative enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, back in school, I became very interested in criminal law due in large part to the teaching of Professor Ronald Boyce. After going through the prosecutor intern program, I was pretty well hooked on the criminal law as a profession. After graduation, I worked for my family’s law firm for a while. The civil practice confirmed for me that I only wanted to work in the criminal area—with one exception. In civil practice, I had the opportunity to do some legislative work—federal and state—which was also pretty exciting at times.
Eventually, I got to do criminal prosecution work for the Ute Tribe, Davis County, and finally Salt Lake County. I loved doing trial work, as it was always an adventure. There was nothing quite as exciting as having the jury return a verdict. After a few years of trial work, my friend and supervisor, John T. Nielsen, asked me if I could help with some legislation which was being supported by the Statewide Association of Prosecutors. The combination of my two favorite areas of the law was just too much to resist.
Shortly thereafter, I happened to be talking with Professor Boyce at the state capitol. He suggested that a particular prosecution problem might be solved by a certain innovative approach. As it so happened, I had in my hand a draft of a bill which did exactly what he was suggesting. With as much calm professionalism as I could muster, I handed him a copy of my draft. That was my moment of vindication.
After more than four decades of practice, Ann and I retired together at the beginning of this year. Except for three years on the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I spent most of my public service as a Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney doing legislative work for the prosecutors. It has been very challenging work, but never dull.
Now that we are retired, we have a bit of time to do some of those things which we always wanted to do. Our youngest son, who is now 38, is autistic and still lives with us, as he needs a great deal of care. Part of our regimen with him is to go to the zoo every week. As this practice has gone on for over 30 years it is beginning to look like it might be a long-term commitment. This combination of autism and the zoo has opened up another world for us. With that added to 11 grandchildren whom we are obliged to spoil, we have a fairly aggressive retirement agenda.”
Judge Ann Boyden:
“Paul and I got married two days before Christmas in 1971. If anyone is counting, that’s 47 years this year. Contrary to most of our colleagues’ belief, we did not go to law school together. Paul started law school in August 1972, nine months after we married, while I completed my undergraduate degree and then an M.Ed. in education.
We were also starting our family. Our two oldest sons were born while Paul was in law school, with our daughter and then youngest son following shortly after, while Paul was setting up early practice.
Through this process, I must have been talking about my never-ending interest in also going to law school, often enough for Paul to walk in one day waving an LSAT application form in my face. He urged me to just take the test; if only to answer my doubts about whether it was really something I was interested in and if it was a realistic pursuit. I picked up the gauntlet, took the test, and the result confirmed the answer to both questions was yes. But the timing still didn’t seem right, so I let it slide again.
In late 1983, Karen Knudsen, then guru of all things law school, phoned me. She told me that both the law school application process and test were changing and the University of Utah would only be accepting current LSAT scores for admission into the next class beginning in August 1984. I figured that was as good a deadline as any. I followed through this time and was in that class. I am still grateful for that phone call, as it set me on the track to a work I have loved for three and a half decades.
My favorite law school experience occurred the first week. An Introduction to Law course was required of the first-year class, taught by the dean. Most of us were somewhat overwhelmed with this strange, new world; but apparently one of my soon-to-become-favorite classmates was not. This woman had already raised seven children and run her own business by the time she came to law school. The dean was truly in her face, grilling her with his version of the Socratic method of questioning. I remember her looking him straight in the eye and saying, “Whoa, Dean—I have seven teenagers. If you want to intimidate me, you’re gonna have to get in line.” I learned at that moment that as important as legal education is, its true value is only realized when combined with life’s experiences.
We were the graduating class of 1987; I took the bar and started my first real job as an attorney with the Salt Lake County District Attorney Office. My first day at that office was also my daughter’s 10th birthday, with a party at the 49th Street Galleria. I have often reflected that was fair warning of what our life would be from then on.
I worked and loved 10 years in the public sector with the D.A. I loved being in court all the time, working with actual people, and feeling like my work maybe mattered in their lives. I was working on the major felony team with my team leader and mentor, Bob Stott, and fully planned to spend the rest of my career there. (God laughs.)
Then in 1997, an envelope fell on my desk. It contained a notice of judicial vacancy upon the retirement of 3rd District Court Judge Phillip Palmer. I very much admired Judge Palmer, and was saddened about the void his leaving would mean for the 3rd District. For the first time, I wondered if I might be able to make a contribution to the justice system I had grown to love by serving on the bench. The feeling simply would not go away, and I submitted my application for the vacancy. This is not a simple process, and it was at the same time that three of our children were getting married. Gov. Mike Leavitt appointed me to that position, with the Utah Senate confirming me in October 1997.
The 3rd Judicial District covers Salt Lake, Tooele, and Summit counties. I was lucky to be able to serve in each of them during my 20-plus years. I presided over all the different calendars assigned to the district jurisdiction, but my heart and interest remained with the criminal felony caseloads. My very favorite work was in my assignments to the problem-solving courts. They call them that for a reason. I truly believe in the value offered in each court; even the now-defunct domestic violence court, and the much-maligned-by-the-uninformed early case resolution court.
To me, no work was more important or exhausting than that which we did in the felony mental health court. The professionalism and work ethic of the attorneys, law enforcement, judicial assistants, and mental health professionals who worked in this court was surpassed only by their love for and desire to improve the lives of those suffering from mental illness and addiction. It truly was life-transforming.
Of any honor or accolade that may attach to the position of judge, I was most honored to be recipient of the Judge Kathleen Nelson Award in 2017. It was meaningful because it is named after a friend and colleague who died much too soon, at the peak of her service on the juvenile court bench. Mostly it was meaningful because it acknowledges the kind of commitment and compassion our citizens expect from the courts when dealing with people struggling with addiction, mental illness, and homelessness. I was honored to be a part of it, but it finally took everything I had left to give.
While Paul and I did not start our legal careers at the same time, we did finish on the same day. After what ended up being a combined 74 years in the justice system, we hung up our proverbial shingles on New Year’s Day of 2018, and walked out the door.
I have never regretted a day on this track since I walked into the law school as a student.
Today we are just over one year of retirement—and life has never been better.”