With two upcoming vacancies on the Idaho Supreme Court it is time once again to debate the merits of appointing vs electing justices to the highest court in Idaho.
Whenever there is an unscheduled vacancy, the seven member judicial council sends a list of names to the guv who appoints a replacement. The council is comprised of 3 politicos appointed by the guv and 3 lawyers appointed by the Idaho State Bar. The sitting chief justice is an ex-officio member. The members serve for 6 year terms. There is a formula to the membership statute designed to insure a political and geographical diversity.
Supreme court justices theoretically stand for election, but they are savvy enough to resign or retire off the election cycle to allow the guv a chance to put his choices on the court…circumventing the election process. Then a justice runs as an incumbent.
Chief Justice Gerald Schroeder and justice Linda Copple Trout have both recently announced their impending retirements.
Trout was quoted in the Daily Paper as favoring a constitutional amendment to create a system allowing the guv to appoint justices and then allow the public to vote YES or NO to retain the justices. We have that system for lower court magistrates now.
She said the “Biggest problem is people don’t know how to make a good choice on who would make a good judge.”
The GUARDIAN is a strong advocate of citizen government and we find her remarks a bit insensitive. The same people whose abilities she questions to select a good judge , are the ones who determine guilt of innocence of murder suspects, hold the power of life or death of those convicted, determine liability of corporations in complex civil suits, and elect the governors she wants to appoint the judges. They are called JURORS and CITIZENS.
Given Trout’s argument that people don’t know a good judge, how would they be any better informed to retain a sitting judge?
Distasteful as politics may be, we favor citizen involvement in the selection of judges at all levels, but especially at the level of the Supremes.
As a compromise, how about at the very least ELECTING the judicial council with 3 reps from each of the seven geographical judicial districts in the state? That would give us 21 members to prevent undue influence by any interest group. With some fine tuning, this proposal could serve the best interests of all concerned.
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