We belong to the people says new Midvale Judge Vo-Duc
Feb 27, 2017 01:21PM ● Published by Travis Barton
Judge George Vo-Duc is sworn in by City Recorder Rori Andreason. Vo-Duc comes from the Salt Lake County where he served as a deputy district attorney. (Midvale Justice Court)
Gallery: We belong to the people says new Midvale Judge Vo-Duc [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
George Vo-Duc is a man who loves soccer and skiing, is a voracious reader and has prosecuted hundreds of court cases over the last 15 years as a lawyer. He is also the new judge of the Midvale City Justice Court having been sworn in on Jan. 24.
“Midvale picked me as much as I picked Midvale…Midvale truly did feel like the [city] that was the best fit for me,” Vo-Duc said. He replaces Judge Ronald Wolthuis who retired at the end of 2016.
Vo-Duc was a deputy district attorney for Salt Lake County since 2002 before applying for a judgeship in 2016, but his journey started long before that.
A first-generation immigrant from France, Vo-Duc came to Utah in 1984 before eventually serving four years in the Navy, helping him to pay for college. He earned a philosophy degree from the University of Utah which served as a crossroads for his ensuing career path which could branch into academia, government or law to name a few.
“I was a big student of ethics and the more concrete aspects of philosophy. I figured the law was a good junction between philosophy and the real world,” Vo-Duc said.
Earning his Juris Doctorate in 2001—from University of Utah’s law school—Vo-Duc spent the next 15 years as a prosecutor where he worked on cases of all types of crime including narcotics, homicides, gang, domestic violence and sex crimes.
In his second crossroad of life, Vo-Duc began exploring other avenues to utilize his talents. Lawyers can go into private practice, pursue political careers, turn to academia as a teacher. Vo-Duc saw it as a natural progression from prosecutor to judge.
“You take stock of who you are, what you can do, and where you want to go. Those three things led me to apply to the bench,” Vo-Duc said.
With his time and experience, Vo-Duc developed a confidence born out of diligence and capability. But it’s the perspective he acquired that may be the most important.
“To be just, to give community the most bang for their buck as a judge, you have to have perspective of the people you’re dealing with, of what you can achieve and you only get that perspective by practicing law,” Vo-Duc said.
After 15 years, he said his perspective is much broader.
“You can only pay attention to the consequences of your actions and learn from them. There’s no way to accelerate that, which is why I guess they call it practicing law,” Vo-Duc said.
Now serving as a judge in Midvale, Vo-Duc spoke of the most important traits a judge should have and what he brings to the position.
There are the traits the public can see, he said, noting he can earn people’s trust by being respectful, fair, reasoned, considerate and compassionate when needed.
“I don’t want them to see a fire breather,” he said. Then there are the qualities the public can’t see like his experience, perspective and philosophical outlook.
“I bring tangible, visible qualities to the bench designed to increase the confidence of the people in Midvale, of the court and the city,” Vo-Duc said. “Also I bring visible and less tangible qualities of experience and judgment.”
Accessibility is important to Vo-Duc. He’s implemented a walk-in calendar where people can come in on Wednesdays between 5-6 p.m. Their case will be called up and they can talk about the issue at hand.
“We do belong to the people. We are here for them, they’re not here for us,” Vo-Duc said. It is a philosophy Vo-Duc is keen to convey, that the justice court is a part of the community and not above it. “We want to be more accessible, more responsive, we want to be fair.”
Vo-Duc presence is not only felt in the courtroom. Fluent in French and a former ski instructor, he holds a variety of interests outside the courtroom that include building gaming computers, karate (he’s one step away from a black belt) and spending time with his 13-year-old son.
He loves reading, and at the beginning of the year he was reading “Team of Rivals” about[LL1] the Lincoln presidency, a science fiction book, a book on philosophy and one on how to work with leather.
“I have a lot of interests, I don’t like to limit myself,” Vo-Duc said, which could apply to both his book spectrum and his list of hobbies.
Vo-Duc said he’s excited to be in Midvale adding how Midvale City’s interests align with his, in that “the days of justice courts as a cash cow are done.”
“We are not here to take their money…(people) will be treated fairly. We have a duty, especially in traffic cases, to promote safety in the community,” Vo-Duc said. “We’ll fulfill our role honorably, we’re here for the service of Midvale.”