Once again, a teeming horde of lawyers is vying to become Idahoâ€™s newest Supreme Court justice. Because Chief Justice Gerald Schroeder is stepping down mid-term on July 31st of this year, the appointment process is well under way. The Spokesman Review Eye on Boise blog reports a lengthy list of hopefuls.
When a Supreme Court justice steps down mid-term he or she is replaced by an appointee, who at the end of the term must face election. Because the appointment operation kicks in only when a mid-term retirement takes place, Justice Schroederâ€™s actions are seen as a comment on the entire process. He obviously agrees with the Idaho Judicial Council that Supreme Court justices should be appointed, but never elected.
The Idaho Judicial Council (which, incidentally, is chaired by Gerald Schroeder) has long held that election of justices introduces the element of politics into the mix, which they believe seriously compromises their impartiality. So they will offer a short list of 2-4 preferred candidates to the governor, assured that whichever candidate is chosen will have the power of name recognition and incumbency when the term expires.
And of whom is the Judicial Council comprised? Gerald Schroeder, as mentioned, and other elitist attorneys and political appointees such as Phil Reberger (former Governor Dirk Kempthorne’s chief of staff) and Helen McKinney (long-time activist in the Idaho Federation of Republican Women). Clearly, the decisions of the Judicial Council will be free of all political influence. NOT!
Members of the Council obviously believe their judgment and intellect is superior to that of uneducated, easily swayed voters â€“ average Idahoans who may come before the Idaho Supreme Court seeking justice. If you doubt my assertions, do a little research on the members of the Council for yourself.
Those who understand that checks and balances on each branch are vital to good government believe that Supreme Court justices should be chosen by citizens on election day. The Judicial Council and its sympathizers have found a way around that inconvenience. Fortunately, even the mid-term appointees must face voters when their term expires. Without regular confirmation at the ballot box, the Supreme Court is completely unaccountable to the citizens of the state.
Case in point: Justice Linda Copple Trout helped sway the Idaho Supreme Court to rule against the state and in favor of the federal government in a water rights case. Idahoans were outraged. When conservative attorney Star Kelso challenged her seat on the Court and used that vote against her, Copple Trout charged him with deceitful, dirty politics. (Liberals always cry foul when their record is brought up in campaigns.) Copple Trout prevailed in the election. However, when the water case was appealed she had a sudden change of heart, and swung the courtâ€™s decision in favor of the state. Amazing how that ballot box works.
Read Part II for comment on Idaho government and the candidates for the Supreme Court.
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