The two competing candidates for the Idaho Supreme Court clashed over everything from the state’s judicial selection process to political influence on the court, in a debate broadcast live tonight on Idaho Public Television. District Judge John Bradbury of Lewiston, the challenger, said, “It’s who you know to get an appointment” to state judicial positions, and suggested that’s why the court lacks diversity. Incumbent Justice Joel Horton responded, “That’s an absurd proposition,” and said the state Judicial Council focuses on “the merits and qualifications of the individuals.”
Horton was appointed to the court in September by Gov. Butch Otter after review by the council, and now is standing for election. Bradbury has called for an end to appointed judges running to succeed themselves, and wants all judgeships decided in open elections.
Horton said he’s the best qualified candidate because he’s been a judge three times as long as Bradbury, while Bradbury maintained he brings a “diverse life experience” to the court, including many years in private practice. Horton said other justices on the court have private practice backgrounds. Before becoming a lower court judge, Horton served as a deputy prosecutor.
The two also clashed over Idaho’s sentencing system, with Bradbury calling for guidelines to address extreme disparities in sentencing from one judge to another around the state, and Horton opposing any guidelines, saying, “It is essential that judges have discretion … because every case is different.”