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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Idaho Judicial Council

Otter appoints Kathy Simpson to Idaho Judicial Council

Kathy Simpson, wife of 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson, has been appointed to the Idaho Judicial Council, the board that vets candidates for judge and oversees Idaho's judiciary, by Gov. Butch Otter. “Having served with Mike in Congress, I know how busy life can be for people like the Simpsons who are so committed to public service at both the local and national levels,” Otter said. “I appreciate Kathy’s willingness to take on this new responsibility. She’s a great addition to the Judicial Council.”

Simpson, of Idaho Falls, succeeds Ronald Nate of Rexburg, whose term expired June 30. She is retired from more than 20 years of work at the Idaho National Laboratory and previously worked in banking after earning a bachelor’s degree at Utah State University; she also serves on the State Board of Veterinary Medicine and is an advisory board member for the McClure Center at the University of Idaho. Click below for Otter's full announcement.

State judge facing DUI says she’ll retire

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: CALDWELL, Idaho (AP) ― A state judge who is facing a drunken driving charge says she will retire effective Jan. 4. The Idaho Press-Tribune reports 3rd District Judge Renae Hoff has announced her retirement. Seven candidates have submitted applications for the vacant position. Applications are being taken until Nov. 9 by the Idaho Judicial Council. Hoff was arrested and charged with misdemeanor DUI on Aug. 25. She was removed from presiding over criminal cases until her DUI charge is resolved. She pleaded not guilty and her trial is set for Dec. 4. The judicial council is scheduled to meet at the Canyon County Courthouse Dec. 6 to interview the candidates.

Otter appoints two new district judges

Gov. Butch Otter named Caldwell attorney Susan Wiebe as a 3rd District judge today, and picked  Bannock County Magistrate Judge Robert Naftz of Pocatello for a 6th District judgeship. Weibe succeeds retiring 3rd District Judge Stephen Drescher, and Naftz succeeds retiring 6th District Judge Peter McDermott. You can click below to read Otter’s full press release on the appointments.

The candidates for the judgeships were screened by the Idaho Judicial Council, which selected three finalists, two lawyers and a magistrate judge, for the 3rd District position from among four applicants; and four finalists for the 6th District position from among eight applicants, seven lawyers and one magistrate judge. The Judicial Council, which screens and recommends potential new judges to the governor, is busy these days. The council is mulling eight applications for the 1st District judgeship that’ll be vacated by the retirement of Judge Charles Hosack in Kootenai County, and nine for the 5th District judge opening created by the pending retirement of Judge Barry Wood. Plus, it’s taking applications through Sept. 28 for another 5th District judge opening in Minidoka County, created by Otter’s appointment of 5th District John John Melanson to the Court of Appeals, effective Sept. 30.

Judges are elected in Idaho, but most leave office before the end of their terms, in which case the Idaho Judicial Council screens candidates and the governor appoints the new judge, who then can run for re-election as an incumbent at the end of his or her term on the bench.

Justices to Judge Bradbury: Move within three weeks

The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that 2nd District Judge John Bradbury is violating the residency requirement for his judgeship, and ordered him to make his primary home in Idaho County within three weeks. Click here to read more at, and you can read the court’s 19-page ruling here. For more on what Bradbury’s case has revealed about Idaho’s secrecy-laden system for disciplining judges, click here; the judge has homes in two counties within the judicial district, but spends more time at his home in Lewiston, which he says is closer to his court hearings. The Idaho Judicial Council initiated ethics proceedings against Bradbury because the law requires him to “actually reside” in Idaho County. He has a home there in Grangeville, but stays there less often than in Lewiston.

In a 3-1 decision authored by Justice Jim Jones, the Idaho Supreme Court declined to suspend the judge from office, as the Judicial Council had recommended; instead, it merely ordered him to make Idaho County his home, and prove it by providing the court with an affidavit within three weeks. “So long as Petitioner carries through with these representations, the matter will be satisfactorily resolved,” Jones wrote. Justice Pro Tem Wayne Kidwell dissented, saying the law requiring judges to “actually reside” in an assigned county doesn’t clearly prohibit having homes both there and elsewhere. When Bradbury was elected judge, he bought a home in Grangeville, registered to vote there, and established his homeowner’s exemption there.

Kidwell noted in his dissent, “Neither the record presented or the majority opinion suggests any shirking of his job. On the contrary it appears that Judge Bradbury is dutifully carrying out the responsibilities to which he has been constitutionally elected.” Bradbury maintained that because of the nature of his sprawling multi-county judicial district, he couldn’t return to Idaho County every night and still do his job as a judge. Bradbury is a maverick who narrowly lost an election for a Supreme Court seat last year. An outspoken reformist and advocate of electing rather than appointing judges, he’s also known for operating multiple drug and mental health courts within his district and frequently travels to hear cases.

Otter names Melanson to Court of Appeals

Gov. Butch Otter has named 5th District Judge John Michael Melanson to the Idaho Court of Appeals, to fill the vacancy that will occur when Appeals Court Judge Darrel R. Perry retires on Sept. 30. Melanson, 61, has been a district judge in Minidoka County for the past eight years, and previously served as a magistrate judge in Lincoln County for six years. He practiced law in Buhl for 13 years before that. Said Otter, “I have tremendous confidence in John and the reputation that he carries into this new appointment.”

Melanson was one of four candidates recommended to Otter by the Idaho Judicial Council; the other finalists were Kent A. Hawkins, Michael A. Henderson and Molly J. Huskey. Twelve people applied for the opening, including two judges and 10 lawyers.The Judicial Council in Idaho handles both screening for selection when a judge leaves office before the end of a term, and discipline of judges; the discipline part takes place in strict secrecy, except when a case goes all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court. Only two ever have, including one that’s now pending; click here to read my Sunday package on the current case, involving 2nd District Judge John Bradbury, and the light it’s shining on the council’s operations.

Case shines light on Idaho’s secrecy-laden system for disciplining judges

A bitter dispute between a crusading, reformist judge and Idaho’s judicial establishment is shining light on a little-noticed quirk: Idaho is the only state where, by law, the same person who chairs the council that disciplines judges presides over the Supreme Court’s review of that council’s actions. “This is the organization whose job it is to ensure that judges do the right thing,” said District Judge John Bradbury, who faces possible removal from his elected judgeship over a residency dispute in a case now pending before the Supreme Court. “I just think if there’s a dispute between the fox and the chicken, the fox shouldn’t be one of the judges.”

Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Daniel Eismann, who both chairs the Idaho Judicial Council and presided over the high court when it heard attorneys’ arguments for both the council and Bradbury, said, “I would personally prefer it not to be set up that way.” Last week, he recused himself from Bradbury’s case, but not because of the dual-role question. You can read my full story here in today’s Sunday Spokesman-Review, along with my sidebar here on Bradbury’s claim that he’s being targeted for his reformist stance, and an additional sidebar here on judicial discipline.

Click the “continue reading” link below to read more on this story.

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About this blog

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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