BOISE – The Idaho State Bar and some elected officials are looking for ways to boost the number of women and minorities seeking to become judges in the state.
Idaho has the smallest percentage of female judges in the nation with just more than 11 percent, according to the Idaho Statesman.
And Idaho is also one of three states, along with Indiana and Iowa, with no women judges on its supreme court, according to the American Judicature Society.
“Some of this is a lack of awareness,” said Deborah Ferguson, an assistant U.S. attorney and president of the Idaho State Bar. “We just sort of assume, ‘Well, come on, it is 2011, these aren’t issues anymore.’ ”
The newspaper reports that women make up about 20 percent of bar members who have enough experience to be eligible to become judges.
The Idaho Supreme Court, in a 2010 report, said that since July 2000, women made up only 11 percent of those applying for district and appellate court jobs. Also, only about 20 percent of applicants for magistrate judge openings have been women.
Magistrate judges are appointed by various local councils, while district, appellate and supreme court justices are appointed by the governor after the Idaho Judicial Council supplies a list of two to four finalists from applicants.
But not many nominees in general are coming in for open judgeships, a staffer for Gov. Butch Otter said.
Otter has appointed judges to 23 positions since 2006. Of the 69 who came forward for the judgeships, five were women, and Otter appointed one of them.
David Hensley, Otter’s chief counsel, said the governor would like to see more female nominees.
Jim Carlson, executive director of the Idaho Judicial Council, said recruiting women is a problem.
“I’m sure we can do better,” he said. “I’m just not sure how to recruit more women. We need more applicants. I am going to be up at the University of Idaho law school, and I am going to mention to those students that they start considering the bench.”
University of Idaho officials say about 40 percent of each year’s graduating class from the law school since 2003 have been women.