BOISE – From the Ruby Ridge standoff to tribal ownership of Lake Coeur d’Alene, from Claude Dallas to Sami al-Hussayen, from mining damage in the Coeur d’Alene Basin to the death penalty trial of child-killer Joseph Duncan, one judge presided.
That judge, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, is now the longest-serving judge in Idaho history, marking 50 years on the bench, a milestone few judges achieve.
“He has been so involved in the judicial fabric of the state of Idaho, both on the federal court and the state court,” said Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones. “He sets a high standard for all the rest of us.”
Lodge, 79, was Idaho’s youngest state district judge when he was appointed in 1965; he’d already served two years as a probate court judge but was just four years out of law school at the University of Idaho. He became a federal bankruptcy judge in 1988 and a U.S. district judge in 1989.
Over his career, he’s said to have presided over more murder trials than any other judge in Idaho. He’s the only judge in the state to preside over two of those at once – in a 1983 case in which Lodge juggled two juries in the courtroom at once, as he tried two co-defendants for raping and murdering a 13-year-old girl. And his landmark ruling that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe owned the southern third of Lake Coeur d’Alene was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It has been a great learning experience and an opportunity to deal with issues and problems that you would never be confronted with in any other occupation,” Lodge said. “There is a lot of satisfaction in working out problems and deciding issues that others have not been able to solve.”
Lodge’s wife, Idaho Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, is a seventh-term lawmaker who this year was named chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Said Jones, “They’ve got all the bases covered.”
Lodge, a Caldwell, Idaho, native, grew up working summers on his family’s ranch and was a three-time All-American in football in high school and college; he’s also a former Golden Gloves boxing champion. He served as chief federal judge for the Idaho district from 1992 to 1999.
He still maintains a full caseload. “When you get older, people recommend that you work puzzles and word games to keep from getting Alzheimer’s,” Lodge said. “I find lawyers do the same for me. So working is the lesser of two evils.”
Idaho Supreme Court Justice Daniel Eismann said, “He’s had a very interesting career.”
Lodge has received multiple death threats; in 2005 a Grangeville businessman was convicted of soliciting his murder. He was the judge when Claude Dallas, a famed would-be outlaw who killed two Idaho Fish and Game officers, came to trial in state court. In 1992, Lodge presided over the federal racketeering trial of then-Shoshone County Sheriff Frank Crnkovich after one of the largest gambling raids in Idaho history. After a first trial ended in a hung jury, Crnkovich was tried again and acquitted.
Said Eismann, “The things I saw him do, he ruled based upon the law – he didn’t appear to want to take sides or anything like that. You could trust him. His rulings were sound legally.”
Asked about his top lesson learned as a judge, Lodge said, “Generally speaking, people are their own worst enemies. So much of what we do or allow to happen could easily have been avoided with a little reflection or forethought. A little more emphasis on morality and the Golden Rule at an early age would be helpful.”
As the July 1 date marking his 50 years on the bench approached, Lodge’s staff, family and friends planned a surprise. His wife persuaded him to accompany her to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s office, saying she was winning an award. When he arrived, the state’s Supreme Court justices and federal court judges were there, and the governor signed a proclamation declaring July 1 to be Edward J. Lodge Day.
Nancy Baskin, a staff attorney for Lodge, said, “We called it ‘Operation Proclamation’ to keep it a secret. It was sort of fun to have a surprise, because how often do you get to surprise a federal judge?”
Otter said, “Impasse and dysfunction in our national government are putting a greater burden on the work of our judiciary. That makes those rare individuals gifted with timeless wisdom and firm principles all the more important not only for our legal system but our political system as well.”
“Judge Lodge embodies those qualities, and the people of Idaho are fortunate to have the benefit of his long, distinguished and historic service,” he said.