Eighteen of Idaho’s district and appellate judges have retired since 2009, and another 34 – 63 percent – are eligible to retire in the next five years, Chief Justice Roger Burdick told lawmakers today in his annual “State of the Judiciary” message to the House and Senate. “It is crucial during this time of transition that we continue to recruit the most highly qualified individuals to serve in the judiciary, and that we ensure that they are full trained and supported,” he said. Idaho’s courts also are going through a technology transformation, Burdick said, transitioning to a fully online, statewide court records system that he said will mark a "sea change" in how court records are filed, managed and accessed in Idaho, greatly easing access and, eventually, cost. “At this date we are on budget and on schedule to pilot this spring the program in Twin Falls County,” he said.
Burdick said the Justice Reinvestment initiative that all three branches of Idaho’s state government have endorsed and launched is “the most important change, indeed a transformation, in criminal justice during my career.” The effort is aimed at reserving prison space for the most dangerous offenders, and reforming how Idaho manages sentencing, treatment, probation and parole with the aim of reducing recidivism. “This will not be accomplished overnight or without additional resources,” Burdick said. “It will take years to train and change the attitudes and practices historically entrenched in all aspects of the criminal justice system. It is vital that the Legislature stay committed to the reinvestment of correctional savings to the goals of community supervision, training of probation officers, and community rehabilitation resources.”
He also called for reform of Idaho’s public defender system, saying, “We hope further study, education and resources will result in a new, creative approach to this constitutional duty.” Burdick, who is addressing both the Senate and the House today, said, “We are truly embarked on a transformational period in our court’s history. We will keep you informed and stand ready to assist in these important policy decisions for all Idahoans.”