University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law alumna and veteran prosecutor Cristina Ortega will be the featured speaker at the 2019 graduation ceremony for law students on May 10.
Eighty-five members of the Class of 2019 are expected to graduate at Kingsbury Hall. Seventy-five spring graduates will join 10 law students who graduated in December at the ceremony. The inaugural cohort of 16 students enrolled in the new Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree program will also be recognized as well as three students who are graduating with a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in environmental, natural resource, and energy law.
Ortega, a 2002 graduate of the S.J. Quinney College of Law, is currently an assistant U.S. Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City. She is assigned to the office’s violent crime section, handling some of the most serious crime cases in the state. She is working on two of the office’s special initiatives: Project Safe Neighborhood and Project Safe Childhood. Under Project Safe Neighborhood, Ortega works with local, state, and federal law enforcement and prosecutes firearms offenses, drug trafficking, and violent crime in Indian County. Under Project Safe Childhood, she works with local, state, and federal law enforcement and prosecutes sexual exploitation of minors offenses that include the possession, distribution, and production of child pornography.
Ortega launched her career as a prosecutor at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office in 2002 where she was a prosecutor in both the adult and juvenile justice system. She also worked from 2010 to 2018 as a deputy district attorney at the Davis County Attorney’s Office, where she specialized in special victim cases that include sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence.
Ortega has a rich history of service to the University of Utah, where she served on the main campus Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2017 and represented the trustees on the KUER advisory board and the audit committee.
She also has a passion for higher education. In 2017, Ortega was appointed to the Utah System of Higher Education Board of Regents by Gov. Gary Herbert. One of 17 members currently serving on the Board of Regents, Ortega’s work includes selecting and evaluating institutional presidents, setting policy, reviewing programs and degrees, approving institutional missions, and submitting a unified higher education budget request to the governor and Utah State Legislature.
Ortega is a board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and is a board member for United Way of Salt Lake. She is active in the legal community as a member of the Utah Journal of Criminal Law, Women Lawyers of Utah, and the Aldon J. Anderson Inn of Court.
Prior to law school, she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Weber State University. In law school, Ortega participated in several activities, including the Minority Law Caucus, Native American Caucus, Mock Trial Regionals, Trial Advocacy, Criminal Clinic and Family Law Review.
Commencement for law students will be held at 10 a.m. -noon on May 10 at Kingsbury Hall, 1395 East Presidents Circle on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City. Seating will be limited and those planning on attending are encouraged to arrive early. A reception will follow the ceremony inside the S.J. Quinney College of Law building, 383 South University Street.
The law school ceremony follows commencement for all students graduating from the University of Utah on May 2 at 6 p.m. at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Renowned civil rights activist, religious leader and University of Utah alum and former faculty member Rev. France A. Davis will deliver the commencement address at the university’s 150th campus-wide convocation.