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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: judges

Want to be a federal district judge? Senators looking for possible nominees

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are asking people interested in becoming Idaho’s next federal district judge – replacing longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge when he takes senior status next summer – to fill out a questionnaire and send it in to their offices. “We’ve had some interest,” said Lindsay Nothern, spokesman for Crapo.

President Barack Obama will name the next judge, and there's no guarantee he'll pick the Idaho GOP senators' nominee, but the Senate does confirm the choice and generally defers to the state's Senate delegation on the pick. Crapo's office says the ideal nominee would be someone “amenable to both parties.” It's a lifetime appointment.

Lodge, Idaho’s longest serving judge ever, will take senior status on July 3, 2015; between his state and federal service, he’s been on the bench more than 50 years. Idaho hasn’t had a new federal district judge appointed since 1995, when current U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill was named to the court. He succeeded the late U.S. District Judge Harold Ryan, who took senior status in 1992.

Typically, the highest-ranking member of Idaho’s congressional delegation who is of the same party as the president would play a key role in the nomination, but Idaho doesn’t have any Democrats in its delegation; Crapo and Risch both are Republicans. You can read my full story here at

Idaho Supreme Court suspends judge-disqualification rule, citing abuse

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Prosecutors and defense attorneys in Idaho will be barred from disqualifying judges from criminal cases without giving a reason first. The Idaho Supreme Court has suspended a rule that had allowed prosecutors or defense attorneys to disqualify a judge “without cause.” The state high court ruled late last month that the rule had been used excessively and abused. The Idaho Mountain Express reports that a judge in Idaho’s 5th District, Robert J. Elgee, had been the target of numerous disqualifications based on the rule. Elgee had petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court to suspend and modify the rule in 2009, but was rebuffed by justices at the time.

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.

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.

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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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