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Senior Judges: Bane or Bargain for Idaho Taxpayers?

December 20th, 2006 by Halli

Recently former Representative Ann Rydalch opined in the Idaho Falls newspaper that the growing use of unelected “assigned” or senior judges constitutes an affront to voters. As the use of these judges increases, she tentatively asks if the electorate is deprived of the right to vote to retain or throw out these judges.

The program Ms. Rydalch refers to calls in these “senior” or retired judges when a magistrate judge goes on vacation, or has a conflict of interest, or when the case load in a district is too great for sitting judges to handle in a timely manner. In most of the cases to which these senior judges are assigned, a judge from outside would have to be called in anyway.

Senior judges are not paid a salary, but instead receive benefits in exchange for their work. That represents savings for the taxpayer, but there is also another. In the 7th Judicial District this program has prevented or at least postponed the need for an additional fulltime judge and a new courtroom, with the accompanying offices, secretaries, etc.

When the Idaho legislature was initially presented with this solution to a growing problem, they balked and declined to approve it. However, they did allow a pilot program to be set up which went on to prove beyond all doubt that the plan would save the taxpayer money while still bringing justice to the courtroom. The legislature appropriated the relatively small amount of money required to put the program in place.

At a recent meeting of legislators and judges, a court administrator displayed the hard numbers. It is indisputable: the senior judge program saves the state, and hence taxpayers, a great deal of money. A challenge is hereby offered to Ms. Rydalch to dig up any examples of abuse of the system by senior judges.

The senior judge program is a winner for both the taxpayers of Idaho and those who find themselves in the justice system. Yes, the legislature accomplished something good when they approved this program.

Posted in Idaho Legislature, Taxes | No Comments »

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