BOISE – Idaho’s newest federal magistrate judge, Raymond Patricco Jr., was sworn in during a brief ceremony Friday morning at the federal courthouse in Boise.
A more formal swearing-in ceremony with “pomp and circumstance” will be held at a later date, Chief District Judge David Nye said, but Friday’s event allowed Patricco to get right to work presiding over his first hearing that afternoon.
Patricco succeeds Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush, who is retiring after nearly 18 years on the bench in state and federal courts.
With roughly 1.8 million residents, Idaho has two federal district and two federal magistrate judges – the fewest federal judges of any state, including those with much smaller populations. Wyoming, with about 581,000 people, has five federal district and magistrate judges. Montana, with about 1 million people, has eight, plus an additional judge on a form of semi-retirement called “senior status.”
In fact, Idaho’s federal judiciary numbers have stayed the same since 1954, when there were just 600,000 residents.
That leaves the state with a high per-capita case load – a prospect that is “daunting,” Patricco said.
“It’s such an unfairness to the state that we only have two district court judges and two magistrate judges – the case load is oppressive,” Patricco said. “You just hope at some point the people in D.C. will come to their senses. If you want justice to be done fairly and fully, you’ve got to give people time.”
After Patricco was sworn in, Nye recounted his own first day on the federal bench.
He went back to his chambers, Nye said, turned on his computer and waited to be assigned his first case.
“There was a ping,” when his first case showed up a few minutes later, followed by another and another – by the end of his first day, 80 cases were on his docket, Nye said.
Patricco, 51, graduated from Harvard University and received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. He served as a federal defense attorney for a private firm, focusing mostly on white-collar crime, before he joined the U.S. Department of Justice as a federal prosecutor in 2000.
He has litigated several notable cases, including prosecuting five defendants with American International Group, Inc. (AIG) and a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway for securities fraud in 2006. He was also one of seven federal prosecutors who indicted the remaining alleged co-conspirators in the 9/11 attacks in New York before the case was moved to the military commission.
In Idaho, he was involved in the prosecution of executives with DBSI for securities and wire fraud. That was the biggest federal fraud case in state history, with the trial spanning more than 40 days in court.
“I feel kind of like the legal version of Forrest Gump – I go to these places and these amazing things happen to me,” Patricco said, referencing the 1994 film starring Tom Hanks. “As a first-generation college graduate, my family is very proud and excited … It’s just been such an amazing journey.”
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