On February 13 the Utah Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment of Constandinos (Deno) Himonas to the Utah Supreme Court, the highest juridical body in the state.
The confirmation of Himonas as a Utah Supreme Court Justice is historically significant not only to the Greek-American community, but also to Utah’s history as he, a Greek Orthodox, becomes the only non-Mormon on the state’s high court.
At his confirmation hearing, Himonas told the Senate: “I am deeply, deeply committed to a textual approach to legislation that comes out of this body and the House, and an originalist approach to both the constitution of this state and the Constitution of the United States,” the Salt Lake City Tribune reported.
Himonas worked as a trial judge in Salt Lake City since 2004 and prior to that practiced law privately for 15 years, the Deseret News reported. He replaces Ronald Nehring, the court’s Associate Chief Justice on the Supreme Court. The Court is comprised of five justices: the Chief Justice, the Associate Chief Justice, and three other Justices. Himonas is now one of our non-Chief Justices until among them, a new Associate Chief Justice is chosen.
State Senator Scott Jenkins, Chairman of the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee, told the News that the committee “spent a great deal of time” examining Himonas’ qualifications and “found him to be a wonderful, delightful individual” who possesses the traits that exemplify a Justice.
Significantly, close to 60% of Utahans are Mormon – members of the Church of Latter-day Saints – the only state in the nation with such a high concentration from that denomination. In stark contrast, Orthodox Christians (Greeks included) in Utah comprise less than 1/2 of 1 percent (.005) of the population.
That Himonas now occupies such an influential seat and breaks the Mormon unanimity on the bench is a significant turning point in Utah’s history.
THE PEOPLE REACT
An array of interesting comments followed the News’ story online, by readers, most of Anglo ancestry – which is Utah’s largest ethnic demographic. Some blasted the news for referring to Himonas as a “Greek-American,” emphasizing that “we are all Americans, I don’t call myself a Welsh-American,” etc., while others praised Himonas specifically, and also applauded the advancement of a “Greek-American” to the state’s high court.
Comments by Tribune readers were equally impassioned. One Greek-American wrote that she was “extremely offended” that Himonas’ ethnicity was even mentioned, and that his merits alone should be the topic of discussion. But another reader, emphasizing the Mormon Church’s dominance in Utah politics, replied: “I think it’s a miracle in our theocracy, so it is worth reporting.”