Judicial Recruitment Initiative in Idaho

Article excerpt

The Idaho Judicial Council conducts merit-based screening of applicants for judicial positions and names two to four candidates from whom the Governor makes the appointment. A 2009 analysis revealed that in the preceding decade, the Governor received four names for only 25 percent of district court vacancies. That is, for 75 percent of the vacancies, the Judicial Council was unable to identify four qualified applicants. Clearly, interest in judicial positions among qualified lawyers was low - in 2008 a district court opening in the State's most populous county garnered only three applicants, of whom only two were referred to the Governor.

The Idaho Supreme Court consequently appointed a committee composed principally of lawyers, judges, and representatives of the Judicial Council to identify ways to enhance judicial recruitment. The committee canvassed bar members regarding their perceptions of judicial service and judicial selection procedures. Responses revealed a high level of interest in judicial positions among lawyers, but significant reservations about applying. Some reservations were practical, such as inadequate compensation or the risk of contested elections, but there were also perceptions of bias in and mistrust of selection and appointment procedures.

Strategies to address these impediments to judicial recruitment were implemented. These included presentations to bar association meetings and lawyer organizations across the state to discuss the findings from the canvass and to encourage lawyers to consider a judicial career. Local judges were called upon to discuss their experiences with the selection process and their view of the rewards and burdens of judicial service. …