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Eye On Boise

State Appellate PD Sara Thomas named new administrative director of Idaho courts

The Idaho Supreme Court has named a new administrative director: Sara Thomas, who currently is the state appellate public defender. She’ll start her new job on July 11; the hire followed an extensive national search. Thomas replaces Patti Tobias, who served as administrative director of Idaho’s courts for two decades, before accepting a position with the National Center for State Courts in Denver in the fall of 2014.

Since then, former Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout has filled in as the interim director, assisted by Senior District Judge Barry Wood. When Thomas takes over, the two will continue to serve as senior judges. “Their hard work and commitment allowed us to wait until we found the perfect candidate,” said Chief Justice Jim Jones.

“For years Sara has been working to improve Idaho’s criminal justice system and she has earned the confidence and trust of the court,” Jones said in a statement. “We look forward to the experience and perspective Sara will bring to this position. She understands our state’s judicial needs and will help us work with the state on the court’s judicial priorities.” 

Thomas is the current chair of the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission. She holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration from Boise State University and a law degree from the University of Idaho. She was named state appellate public defender by Gov. Butch Otter in 2012; prior to that, she had been chief of the SAPD’s appellate unit for a decade, and before that worked there for three years as a staff attorney. The Office of the State Appellate Public Defender was created in 1998; with a staff of 20, it provides appellate representation to indigent defendants who have been convicted of felonies in state district court.

Thomas said, “I have dedicated my career to helping ensure our state’s justice system serves its people by providing fair, timely and impartial resolution of cases. I look forward to working with members of the court and continuing to help Idahoans in my new role.”

Thomas’ salary for the new position has not yet been finalized; when Tobias departed in 2014, her salary was $130,000 a year, matching the salary of a Court of Appeals judge.

The position of administrator of the state’s courts is created by statute; the administrator serves at the pleasure of the Supreme Court. The director leads court services ranging from community and family justice services to intergovernmental relations and trial court operations and helps set the strategic direction of the Idaho Courts.

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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