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Bradbury will comply, but says rural drug, mental health courts will suffer

2nd District Judge John Bradbury says he’ll comply with the Idaho Supreme Court’s order to make Idaho County his main residence within three weeks, and swear to it in an affidavit. But he said the move could endanger the drug and mental health courts he operates in rural Clearwater County, in which 32 people are enrolled. “I can’t service those and drive the prairie every week in the winter, and none of the other judges are willing to take it over,” Bradbury said.

“I have said I will comply and I will,” Bradbury said. But, he said, “They’re making it as difficult as they can for me to do my job.” The twice-elected judge - who last year nearly won a race for an Idaho Supreme Court seat - said he operates the only rural mental health court in the state. “The rural counties have been the orphans of the judicial system in Idaho,” he said. Though his judgeship requires “actual residence” in Idaho County, much of his caseload is in Orofino, Bradbury said. “If I only had one trial in Orofino every three years, it’d be easy. I’ve had probably 40 trials there since I’ve been a judge.” He added, “I travel an average of five or six hours a week doing my job.”

Because of caseload and the topography of his largely rural judicial district, Bradbury has repeatedly proposed changing the state residency law for his judgeship to allow more flexibility on the judge’s residence; he presides in three counties, but the law requires him to live in one of those, Idaho County. The Idaho Judicial Conference has endorsed the change unanimously three times, but the Supreme Court has declined to propose the change to the Legislature each time. “They won’t agree and they won’t give a reason,” Bradbury said. “What conclusion can you draw from that except it’s personal?”

Justice Jim Jones, writing the decision for the court majority that found Bradbury in violation of the residence law, wrote, “While the Legislature’s decision as to which district judge position will be funded and where it will be located may not always coincide with what is ideal from an administrative standpoint, it is not for the courts to second guess or circumvent such decisions.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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