To newly appointed Third Judicial District Court Judge Todd M. Shaughnessy, the breadth of the legal profession is both its greatest reward and possibly, its saving grace. Judge Shaughnessy has always aspired to the true generalist in his own career, embracing the full scope of intellectual challenges that the profession offers. Now, as a trial court judge, Shaughnessy has the opportunity to fulfill those personal aspirations while simultaneously contributing to the enhancement of the legal profession’s general ability to meet those diverse societal needs.
During his seventeen years of private practice, at both Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy and Snell & Wilmer, Shaughnessy made every effort to build as broad a practice as civil litigation could offer, immersing himself in the details of any business, industry, or individual that would hire him, even at the cost of billable hours. It wasn’t until he began his judicial career, in July 2011, however, that Judge Shaughnessy learned just how diverse the practice of law really was. The panoply of challenges he faced, from criminal to domestic to probate to civil, were as rewarding as they were foreign and difficult. Judge Shaughnessy has addressed his inexperience in those areas by leaning heavily on his colleagues on the bench, crediting his achievements thus far to their unlimited patience and willingness to help.
Judge Shaughnessy’s private career and early experiences as a judge have made him quite aware of the limitations of litigation and the obstacles that have prevented the legal profession from reaching the full scope of society’s needs for dispute resolution. He is hopeful that the new “proportional discovery rules” will open the doors of the judiciary to a wider variety of trials, litigants, and jurors, by reducing the cost barriers to litigation and by protecting attorneys who try cases upon limited and imperfect information. The increased level of participation, he believes, will vest a larger segment of society in the success of the system, and thereby elevate the profession, while creating new opportunities for lawyers willing to take cases to trial within the confines of the new discovery limitations, more like the trial attorneys of yesterday.
Judge Shaughnessy is similarly a man of many passions in his personal life, and he believes that the diverse personal interests of Utah attorneys play an important role in maintaining the close-knit, cordial bar that we are so lucky to have in Utah. He advises his colleagues in the bar to cultivate those interests, enjoy their short time with their children, and experience the world class landscape in which we live, as he does on his frequent motorcycle trips around Utah and weekends at his family cabin in Torrey. If the daily pressures of law practice start to take their toll, Judge Shaughnessy would advise the civil litigant to check their perspective at the criminal law and motion calendar, where lives are permanently changed on a daily basis. It is those proceedings, and the decisions they require, that now keep the veteran civil litigator, and aspiring generalist, awake at night.