May 5, 2010 in Idaho

Idaho Supreme Court candidates spar

By The Spokesman-Review
Betsy Z. Russell photo

Idaho 2nd District Judge John Bradbury, left, and Idaho Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick debate Tuesday before a live audience at the state Capitol in Boise.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

BOISE – Two candidates for the Idaho Supreme Court matched off in a fiery debate Tuesday and immediately sparred over ratings released by the Idaho State Bar earlier in the day.

The survey of lawyers rated Idaho Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick much more highly than 2nd District Judge John Bradbury, who’s challenging Burdick in the May 25 election. Bradbury decried the bar survey as “a disgrace” and “dishonest.”

He noted that 614 lawyers around the state ranked candidates on such measures as knowledge and understanding of the law and judicial temperament, but said as a judge in three “very rural counties,” he knows only about 100 lawyers. The survey specifies that those who don’t know the judge shouldn’t answer, he said.

“What they’re trying to do is disqualify me as a candidate without knowing me, and it’s a disgrace,” Bradbury declared.

However, about 250 of the 614 respondents declined to rate Bradbury because they said they weren’t knowledgeable about him. Only about 100 said they didn’t know Burdick well enough to rate him.

Burdick, a former public defender, county prosecutor, magistrate judge, and district judge before his appointment to the high court, said, “I know a lot of lawyers; they practice before me. I sincerely appreciate the vote of confidence.”

The two candidates clashed repeatedly during the 30-minute debate sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters and broadcast on Idaho Public Television.

At one point, Burdick disputed Bradbury’s statement that the state’s school facilities lawsuit ended when lawyers were called to a meeting in 2006 in the Supreme Court’s basement and told “it’s over,” without any written order or decision – and despite an earlier ruling that the state’s school funding system is unconstitutional.

“It is abject malarkey and nonsense,” Burdick said, adding that the basement meeting was a scheduling conference on a related case.

Bradbury’s account of the meeting matches that given at the time by former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robert Huntley, attorney for a group of school districts that sued over the state’s system for funding school construction, and Deputy Attorney General Michael Gilmore.

“If you want to know what happened in the basement of the Supreme Court, talk to the players who were there,” Bradbury said.

“The Idaho state Legislature are the people who in fact fund the schools,” Burdick countered. “The Supreme Court of Idaho cannot. It is up to the Legislature. The parties who brought this lawsuit in the first case could bring this lawsuit again tomorrow if they wish – this case is not over. We indicated we retained jurisdiction.”

Bradbury called the school lawsuit’s outcome “the darkest day in the history of the Supreme Court in Idaho” and said, “I agree how taxes are raised is a political question.” But he said the court should have followed through by ensuring lawmakers fixed the system.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email