Justice Jim Jones will become chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court on Aug. 1, having been elected by the other members of the court after current Chief Justice Roger Burdick decided not to seek a second four-year term as chief. The last three chief justices – Burdick, Justice Dan Eismann, and former Justice Gerald Schroeder – all have served just one term as chief; prior to that, then-Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout served two terms.
Jones, who was Idaho Attorney General for two terms in the 1980s, was elected to the high court in 2004 and re-elected in 2010. He’s an Eden, Idaho native with a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago and a political science degree from the University of Oregon; he’s also a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, honorably discharged as a captain in 1969 after a 13-month tour. Jones worked as a legislative assistant to then-Sen. Len B. Jordan for three years and then practiced law in Jerome for nine years before being elected Attorney General. After leaving office in 1990, he practiced law in Boise before joining the Supreme Court.
Burdick, a former prosecutor, public defender, bank examiner, and attorney in private practice, was first appointed as a magistrate judge in Jerome County in 1981; he became a district judge in Twin Falls County in 1993, and was appointed to the Idaho Supreme Court by then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne in 2003. He was re-elected in 2004 and 2010. He served as the court’s vice-chief from 2007 to 2011 before being elected chief justice. Burdick holds a finance degree from the University of Colorado and a law degree from the University of Idaho.
The chief justice presides over the five-member court and supervises the administrative director of the state courts; according to the Idaho Constitution, the chief justice is the “executive head of the judicial system.”