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Eye On Boise

Federal courts declare ‘judicial emergency’ in Idaho due to lack of second district judge appointment

The nation’s federal courts have declared a “judicial emergency” in Idaho due to the vacancy in one of the state’s two U.S. district judge positions, created when U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge took senior status on July 3 – and no replacement has been named. It’s one of 28 judicial emergencies currently in effect across the nation; it was declared today by the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Courts. Because Idaho has only two federal district judges, Lodge’s move leaves it with just one, Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill; you can read my full story here at

Lodge hasn’t gone far since taking senior status – he’s now presiding over the six-week terrorism trial of Fazliddin Kurbanov, which began with jury selection yesterday in Boise and has opening arguments scheduled to start today. But his move to senior status suggests a decreasing caseload, shifting the burden to Winmill and visiting judges from other jurisdictions; Idaho currently has no other senior judges.

Idaho is one of just three states with only two U.S. district judges; it hasn’t gotten an additional judgeship in 60 years, though its caseloads have soared. Last fall, Idaho GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch announced they’d be screening potential candidates for Lodge’s seat to recommend to the White House for possible appointment. Their process has been entirely secret, and they’ve refused to comment on its status, though it’s been widely rumored in Idaho’s legal community that they’ve now submitted four names to the president for consideration. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who is among the state’s highest-ranking elected officials who is of the same party as President Barack Obama, has confirmed he’s submitted three names of his own to the White House. The White House press office, contacted last week, had no comment on the pending appointment.

Federal district judges are lifetime appointees; they are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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