SALT LAKE CITY — Officials dedicated Utah's new, unnamed federal courthouse Wednesday, but Rep. Chris Stewart has an idea whose name he'd like to see on the building.
Stewart, R-Utah, said a during the ceremony that he intends to introduce legislation to put longtime Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch's name on the outside. He acknowledged that couldn't happen until January 2018 when Hatch ends his seventh and what he said would be his last term in the Senate.
"I just don't think there's anyone that has had more impact not just on the state but on the nation and has worked on the judiciary and worked with the federal bench. I felt like that's a great honor for him and appropriate," Stewart said after the event.
Hatch called that prospect "embarrassing" and not something he seeks.
Stewart and Hatch joined federal judges and officials, the architect and general contractor in the George Sutherland Courtroom to cut the ribbon on the $185 million building at the corner of 400 South and West Temple.
Sutherland, whose name has also been mentioned as a possibility to go on the courthouse, is the only Utahn to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. He served from 1922 to 1938.
Hatch has played a key role in the nomination and confirmation of all the federal judges serving in Utah, as well as several U.S. attorneys. He'll be involved in filling two vacancies on the bench and finding a replacement for U.S. Attorney David Barlow, who resigned earlier last month.
"We're fortunate to have the judges that we have in this courthouse," Hatch said.
Chief Judge Ted Stewart — the older brother of Congressman Chris Stewart — said there's not a better friend to the federal judiciary than Hatch.
Ground for the courthouse was broken in February 2011, but the idea of a new building dates back to 1991. Former Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, finally secured the funding from Congress after years of having to battle for it. The building opened in April.
Tom Phifer, the New York-based lead architect, said he has been on the project since 1996 and worked closely with the judges to design the building
"It is such a privilege to bring their vision to life," Phifer said. "It's really their voice and the voice of democracy that we celebrate today."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: dennisromboy