A deputy Idaho attorney general, Stephanie Altig, has been reprimanded by the Idaho State Bar in a case stretching clear back to 1997, for reading privileged letters between Idaho prison inmates and their attorneys – who at the time were suing the state over retaliating against prisoners for trying to access courts. The complaint over the reading of the legal mail went to federal court, where U.S. District Magistrate Judge Larry Boyle ruled that the actions by the state lawyer assigned to Idaho’s correctional system showed “an attitude of complete disregard for the judicial process.” The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Boyle’s findings in 2001, and held that “department counsel’s actions in this case do not pass even the most lenient ethical ‘smell test.’” The Professional Conduct Board of the Idaho State Bar has now issued a public reprimand of Altig for her actions.
“Why it took so long I don’t know,” said Jack van Valkenburgh, head of the Idaho ACLU. Former Idaho Attorney General Tony Park, who serves on the ACLU of Idaho legal committee, said, “It has taken far too long, over five years since Judge Boyle made his findings and the court of appeals expressed its disgust with the deputy attorney general’s conduct.”
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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