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Eye On Boise

Testy Idaho Supreme Court race sparks ethics dispute

The contested race for a seat on the Idaho Supreme Court this year has turned testy, with challenger Breck Seiniger raising an ethical issue about second-term Justice Joel Horton regarding a 2008 case. The justice, who’s rarely made headlines in his many years on the bench and has bipartisan support for his re-election bid, dismisses it as nothing but a personal attack. But a national judicial ethics expert says it's a legitimate question and in his view, the judge should have disqualified himself in the case.

“I think it’s a fair point for an opponent in an election to call out,” said Charles Geyh, a law professor at Indiana University and an expert on judicial disqualification and ethics for judges. “Is the idea that one time, six years ago, he had a lapse – should that get him out of a job? No, by itself, no.” But it’s among the factors that voters should consider, he said.

The case involves a very influential big Idaho corporation, Simplot Corp., that was sued by a group of farmers it had wronged. Justice Horton wrote the court’s opinion in the case; while it was pending, he named Simplot’s associate general counsel as his campaign treasurer. Horton contends the unanimous decision in the case already had been reached and there was no conflict; Seiniger calls the move “completely inappropriate.” You can read my full story here at

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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