Why did the Idaho Transportation Department try to disqualify 2nd District Judge John Bradbury from the Highway 12 truck shipments case? ITD gave no reason in its court filing, arguing it could automatically remove the judge without cause. The plaintiffs in the case disagreed, saying that’s allowed in civil suits, but not when the judge is acting in an appellate capacity, as he is in this case, reviewing a decision of ITD under the state Administrative Procedures Act. ITD responded that he’s not really reviewing a decision - because his temporary restraining order blocked the decision, by blocking ITD from issuing pending permits for four big ConocoPhillips shipments of oil refinery equipment over Highway 12 from Lewiston to Montana. “In reality, plaintiffs seek to prevent a future action by ITD, the future issuance of a permit,” ITD argued in court papers.
At today’s telephone conference, all sides agreed to delay the hearing to Monday, and to allow ITD to go ahead and issue the permit to ConocoPhillips on Monday so the judge can then review it in court that morning. The temporary restraining order blocking the permit runs through Friday. “We’re challenging the underlying determination that the permit should be issued,” said Laird Lucas of Advocates for the West. “But we all realized that it’d be a lot easier for all of us if we can see exactly what the permit says. So the permit will be issued on Monday morning, and then we’ll be in court Monday morning asking the court to consider the preliminary injunction. They’re not going to start the load.”
Idaho previously had a rule that also allowed disqualification of judges without cause in criminal cases, but last month, the Idaho Supreme Court suspended that rule, saying it’d been used excessively and abused. It remains in effect for regular civil cases, however, that aren’t on appeal.
ITD spokesman Jeff Stratten said, “ITD will present its case on Monday. The proposed shipments by Conoco will remain at the Port of Lewiston awaiting the judge’s decision.”