Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Monday, October 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 50° Cloudy

Eye On Boise

State Bar survey finds Gutierrez, Brody tied for top scores, Strong second, McKenzie trailing way behind

The Idaho State Bar survey is out, surveying attorneys in Idaho about the four candidates for the Idaho Supreme Court. The results: Robyn Brody and Sergio Gutierrez tied for the top rankings, both getting an overall average score, statewide, of 3.58 out of 4. Clive Strong was close behind them with an average overall score statewide of 3.27. Sen. Curt McKenzie trailed well below the others, with an average statewide score of 1.90 out of 4.

A total of 581 state Bar members responded to this year’s survey, which asked them to rate the candidates in categories including integrity and independence; knowledge and understanding of the law; judicial temperament and demeanor; and legal ability and experience.

For integrity and independence, Gutierrez, a judge on the Idaho Court of Appeals, Idaho’s second-highest court, came out on top with a rating of 3.62; Brody was close behind him with 3.59; Strong had 3.27 and McKenzie had 1.78.

For knowledge and understanding of the law, Brody earned the top rating of 3.6; followed by Gutierrez, 3.48; Strong, 3.26; and McKenzie, 2.0.

Gutierrez was tops for judicial temperament and demeanor, at 3.68. Brody was second at 3.58; followed by Strong, 3.27; with McKenzie trailing at 1.94.

In the category of legal ability and experience, Brody had the top score of 3.54; followed closely by Gutierrez at 3.53. Strong got 3.29; and McKenzie scored 1.89.

“The Idaho State Bar does not interpret or express any opinion about the … results and makes no endorsements,” the Bar said in a news release. Attorneys participating in the survey, which has been conducted for every contested judicial election since 2006, are given the option of rating each candidate in each category as 1-Does not meet expectations; 2-Average; 3-Above average; 4-Exceeds expectations; or “I do not know candidate well enough in this area.” Brody had the highest I-don’t-knows; Gutierrez had the lowest. The full results are online here.

The four are facing off in the May 17 election for an open seat on Idaho’s highest court. Although that’s the primary election, it is a nonpartisan race, and anyone can vote in it – whether or not they’re affiliated with a political party. The justice candidates will appear on a nonpartisan ballot that’s available to everyone who goes to the polls. If none of the four wins a majority, the top two vote-getters will face off in the November general election.

Here's my full story from spokesman.com:

Idaho bar survey ranks three high court hopefuls highly, but not a fourth

By Betsy  Z. Russell

Three of the candidates seeking an open Idaho Supreme Court seat were highly rated in a survey of members of the Idaho State Bar, but the fourth drew much lower ratings from lawyers across the state, who rated the candidates on factors including integrity, independence, judicial temperament and legal experience.

State Sen. Curt McKenzie got the lowest ratings, scoring a statewide overall average of 1.9 out of 4.

Rupert attorney Robyn Brody and Idaho Court of Appeals Judge Sergio Gutierrez tied for the top ratings, with matching statewide overall averages of 3.58 out of 4. Clive Strong, head of the natural resources division for the Idaho Attorney General’s office, was in second place at 3.27.

A total of 581 state bar members responded to this year’s survey, which asked them to rate the candidates in four areas: Integrity and independence; knowledge and understanding of the law; judicial temperament and demeanor; and legal ability and experience.

The state bar has conducted the surveys for every contested judicial election in Idaho since 2006. In the three previous contested Idaho Supreme Court races – each of which was a matchup of just two candidates – the candidate with the highest rating in the survey won every time.

The most recent contested race was in 2014, when Boise attorney William “Breck” Seineger challenged Justice Joel Horton, who had been appointed to the court in 2007. The bar survey gave Horton a 3.44 average rating out of 4; Seineger scored 2.51. Horton won the election with 65.8 percent of the vote to Seineger’s 34.2 percent.

“The Idaho State Bar does not interpret or express any opinion about the … results and makes no endorsements,” the bar said in a news release.

Diane Minnich, Idaho State Bar executive director, when asked about the significance of results that show one of the four candidates trailing in ratings by such a large margin, said, “We don’t have any particular opinion on what they mean. This is what the lawyers say. … Everybody will have their own opinion about what that means.”

Aman McLeod, a visiting professor of law at the University of Idaho who does research on judicial elections and politics, said, “The bar looks askance at the kind of campaigning that Sen. McKenzie is doing,” because unlike the other three candidates in the nonpartisan race, he’s been appealing directly to the same partisan Republican constituency he’s courted as a state senator. Because of that, McLeod said, lawyers may not “consider him to be a serious jurist.”

McKenzie did not respond to calls seeking his comments on the bar survey results Monday afternoon.

Here are the scores by category:

For integrity and independence, Gutierrez, who now serves on Idaho’s second-highest court, came out on top with a rating of 3.62; Brody was close behind him with 3.59; Strong had 3.27 and McKenzie had 1.78.

For knowledge and understanding of the law, Brody earned the top rating of 3.6; followed by Gutierrez, 3.48; Strong, 3.26; and McKenzie, 2.0.

Gutierrez was tops for judicial temperament and demeanor, at 3.68. Brody was second at 3.58; followed by Strong, 3.27; with McKenzie trailing at 1.94.

In the category of legal ability and experience, Brody had the top score of 3.54; followed closely by Gutierrez at 3.53. Strong got 3.29; and McKenzie scored 1.89.

Rather than giving a rating in a particular category, respondents to the survey had the option of choosing “I do not know candidate well enough in this area.” Brody had the highest I-don’t-knows; Gutierrez had the lowest.

The election is May 17; although that’s also the date of Idaho’s party primary elections, any Idaho citizen may go to the polls and vote in the nonpartisan Idaho Supreme Court race, regardless of whether or not they’re affiliated with a party. If none of the four rivals gets a majority, the two top vote-getters will face off in a runoff in the November general election.




You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus
« Back to Eye On Boise
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.

Follow Betsy online: