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Idaho's chief justice asks lawmakers to protect judges from protester 'threats'

Idaho's five supreme court justices
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Idaho's five supreme court justices pictures at Gov. Brad Little's second inauguration in January 2023. Chief Justice Richard Bevan, second from left, asked state lawmakers to pass legislation to protect judges from violent threats.

The chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court wants lawmakers to address what he sees as a growing threat to the safety of judges around the state.

On Wednesday, Chief Justice Richard Bevan told both the House and Senate something needs to be done about “veiled threats” made towards sitting judges.

“These interactions at their homes – at their places of respite and peace – are not just an affront to the rule of law, but also a danger that we ask you to address,” Bevan said.

He’s referring to instances where protesters doxed judges and demonstrated in front of their homes, claiming anti-government activist Ammon Bundy and others were being politically targeted by the justice system.

In addition to those examples, including calling family court judges “child traffickers” for enforcing Idaho’s child welfare laws, encounters across the country have turned deadly.

A man shot and killed a retired judge in Wisconsin last year, and a targeted attack against a New Jersey federal judge in 2020 left her son dead.

Bundy, who’s facing trespass charges and a civil lawsuit from St. Luke’s, released a 3,508-word letter on a far-right blog Wednesday, warning a magistrate judge, Gov. Brad Little, Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke, and other officials to back down.

Bundy said he feels he has “justification to call upon my friends and defend myself by any means, even though I have no intention at this time to do so.”

Six years ago, he led an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon that resulted in the death of one of his followers. Bundy and his followers were acquitted in federal court later that year.

Lawmakers in the past have rejected attempts to pass targeted picketing bills, saying they violate the First Amendment.

In his speech, Bevan didn’t outline how he wanted legislators to address the issue.

“Unfortunately, we live in an age when those who object to the balance in our fair and democratic republic seem increasingly disposed to tearing it down,” he said.

Attracting new judges to the bench has been hard in recent years for a variety of reasons. But Bevan said a survey last year of Idaho State Bar members revealed an increasingly polarized political environment was one of their primary concerns about becoming a judge.

Other concerns include disproportionate wages compared to what attorneys earn in the private sector.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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