Uganda's Chief Justice Katureebe visits Utah courts

Tuesday , May 09, 2017 - 4:21 PM

Nadia Pflaum, Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN — A voyage across continents came full circle this week, as Chief Justice Bart Katureebe of Uganda landed in Salt Lake City for a tour of Utah’s justice system. 

Katureebe — the fourth-most-powerful figure in the nation — met 2nd District Court Judge Michael DiReda when the Ogden judge visited Uganda with the Global Justice Project last summer.

DiReda recalled meeting Katureebe in his chambers in Uganda in 2016 and presenting him with a coffee table book of Utah landscapes. DiReda extended an invitation for the official to come for a visit. 

“I didn’t really think Utah would be a place that would be on the top of his list to travel,” DiReda told the Standard-Examiner. “I thought he’d spend time in big cities, perhaps somewhere in California, or Chicago, New York City.” 

But Katureebe’s technical adviser, Andrew Khaukha, paid a visit to Utah last winter and told the judge that the chief justice would very much like to come to the Beehive State. 

Calendars were exchanged, and voila — Katureebe touched down in Salt Lake City last Saturday. He will be in Utah until Thursday, May 11. 

On Monday, Katureebe sat next to DiReda on the bench in Ogden’s courthouse as DiReda went through his law and motion docket. They heard from a man accused of arson, several alleged probation violations, a candidate for mental health court, and the accused perpetrator of an assault. Katureebe followed along with a printed docket sheet and laptop.

In each case, DiReda exhibited patience, at times asking of second- or third-time defendants, “What’s going on with you?” 

He asked one young man accused of violating his probation, “What I need to know from you is, do you want to be on probation? Because you could just carry out the year sentence and be done with it.” 

The man apologized. 

“If you’re going to be on probation, that means try,” DiReda said. “All I expect you to do is show up, and I will continue to work with you under those circumstances. Do your best.” 

Asked what he noticed about Utah’s court system, Katureebe told the Standard-Examiner, “It’s interesting. In Uganda, they don’t have all of the technical assistance you have.” 

DiReda has arranged meetings between Katureebe and officials from many layers of Utah judiciary and government, including Gov. Gary Herbert. “The more people there to collaborate with him,” DiReda said, “the better the outcome will be as he reframes Uganda’s justice system.” 

Utah Court of Appeals Gregory Orme planned to take the Ugandan Chief Justice to a Salt Lake Bees game this week.

“It happens to be Middle School Day,” DiReda said, “so the stadium will be filled with middle schoolers. Hopefully he’ll enjoy being surrounded by rowdy children.” 

DiReda noted that Katureebe’s visit to Utah isn’t just a pit stop on the way to a more frequented U.S. destination. 

“We weren’t just a blip on the radar; he made a point to come here,” DiReda said, “which I consider a great honor.” 

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