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House committee wants to spur more judicial elections

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It’s the third time in as many years that Idaho lawmakers are trying to tie pay raises for judges as a way to encourage more judicial elections.

The bill from House Speaker Mike Moyle (R-Star) would give retiring judges a one-time $25,000 bonus if they finish their term. The judge must notify the state supreme court more than a year in advance of their retirement to be eligible.

“What’s wrong with an election, my friends? This is not punitive in any way,” Moyle said.

Right now, if a judge steps down before their term expires, a judicial nominating committee vets candidates and gives a slate of names to the governor for them to fill the vacancy. That group is made up of sitting judges, attorneys and regular citizens.

Judges who want to continue to serve on the bench beyond their first term already have to stand for election. Moyle said it's difficult to knock off an incumbent, though.

Jason Spillman, an attorney with the Administrative Office of the Courts, said the courts oppose the bill. The legislature doesn’t force any other state employee or official to agree to a policy change to get a pay raise, he said.

“There’s a reason it doesn’t happen to anyone else, and a reason it shouldn’t happen to Idaho judges and it’s because it’s simply inappropriate,” Spillman said.

Pay bumps would range between 2.6% to 3% depending on the type of judge under the bill.

Don Burnett, the former dean of the U of I College of Law, says judicial elections invite candidates to reveal how they would rule on potential cases, which goes against the code of judicial conduct.

The bill unanimously cleared committee and goes to the House floor.

Copyright 2024 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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