Judicial selection in Idaho

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Idaho
Seal of Idaho.png
Idaho Supreme Court
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Idaho Court of Appeals
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Idaho District Courts
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   4 years
Idaho Magistrate Division
Method:   Commission selection
Term:   4 years

Selection of state court judges in Idaho occurs primarily through nonpartisan elections. All judges (with the exception of magistrates, who are appointed to the bench by a magistrate commission) participate in elections wherein they cannot be nominated or endorsed by any political party.[1][2][3]

Judges' terms begin on the first Monday in January following their election.[4]

Supreme Court and Court of Appeals

See also: Nonpartisan election of judges

The seven justices of the Idaho Supreme Court and the four judges of the Idaho Court of Appeals are elected in nonpartisan elections. They serve six-year terms, after which they must seek re-election if they wish to retain their seat. To learn more about these elections, visit the Idaho judicial elections page.[2]

The chief justice of the supreme court is selected by peer vote to serve a four-year term. The chief judge of the court of appeals is appointed by the supreme court chief justice and serves in that capacity for two years.[2]


To serve on either of these two courts, a judge must:

  • be at least 30 years old;
  • be a U.S. citizen;
  • be an Idaho resident for at least two years; and
  • have had 10 years of in-state law practice.[2]


If a midterm vacancy occurs on the court, an interim judge is appointed by the governor from a list of two to four names provided by a nominating commission. This judge will serve out the remainder of the unexpired term, after which he or she must run in a nonpartisan election to continue serving.[2]

District Court

See also: Nonpartisan election of judges

There are 40 judges on the Idaho District Courts, each elected in nonpartisan elections to five-year terms. The court shares most aspects of selection with the supreme court and court of appeals, including policies on re-election and the filling of interim vacancies. Judicial qualifications differ slightly, however, as seen below.[2]

The court's chief judge is chosen by peer vote and serves in that capacity for three years.[2]


To serve on this court, a judge must:

  • be at least 30 years old;
  • be a U.S. citizen;
  • be an Idaho resident for at least two years;
  • be a resident of the judicial district for at least one year; and
  • have had 10 years practice of law.[2]

Magistrate Court

See also: Merit selection

Judges of the Idaho Magistrate Division are appointed by a district magistrate commission. Magistrates occupy the bench for 18 months after their initial appointment, after which they must run in the next general election if they wish to continue serving.[3]


To serve on this court, a judge must:

  • have earned a high school degree or its equivalent;
  • be at least 30 years old;
  • be licensed to practice law in the state; and
  • have practiced law for at least five years.[3]


Judicial selection methods in Idaho have undergone several changes in the last century. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest.

  • 2003: A new law was enacted requiring third parties involved in political campaigns to report any last-minute expenditures exceeding $1,000 within 48 hours. The law was recommended by a task force created after the 2002 judicial primaries to investigate the role of money in state judicial elections; in the race for chief justice of the supreme court, an independent group spent nearly $174,000 on a last-minute advertising blitz aimed at unseating Linda Copple Trout.
  • 1982: A constitutional amendment passed which allowed the chief justice of the supreme court to be selected by peer vote.
  • 1980: The Idaho Court of Appeals was created and established that judges are to be chosen in nonpartisan elections and serve for six years.
  • 1967: The judicial council was created to nominate candidates for interim vacancies and to make recommendations to the supreme court for the discipline, removal, or retirement of judges.
  • 1934: A constitutional amendment passed with 67 percent of voter approval, providing for the nonpartisan election of judges. The impetus for nonpartisan elections stemmed from a pro-Democratic sweep in the state (and the rest of the country) in the early 1930s. After two Republican incumbent justices were defeated in the 1932 elections, Idaho's Republican leadership pushed for the removal of partisan elections.
  • 1890: Idaho's original constitution dictated that supreme court judges were to be elected to six-year terms by popular vote. Judges of the district courts were elected to four-year terms by popular vote.[5]

Judicial nominating commission

The nominating commission, known as the Idaho Judicial Council, assists in filling judicial vacancies on the supreme court, court of appeals and district court. It compiles a list of two to four qualified candidates to present to the governor, who must appoint an interim judge from that list.[6]

The commission consists of seven members:

  • Three members are lawyers (one of whom must be a district judge) chosen by the Idaho State Bar's board of commissioners with consent from the state senate.
  • Three members are non-lawyers chosen by the governor with consent from the state senate.
  • The remaining member, who serves as the commission's chairperson, is the chief justice of the supreme court.[6]

No more than three of these members may belong to the same political party. They serve six-year terms.[6]

Selection of federal judges

United States district court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the United States Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[7]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links


IdahoIdaho Supreme CourtIdaho Court of AppealsIdaho District CourtsIdaho Magistrate DivisionUnited States District Court for the District of IdahoUnited States bankruptcy court, District of IdahoUnited States Court of Appeals for the Ninth CircuitIdaho countiesIdaho judicial newsIdaho judicial electionsJudicial selection in IdahoIdahoTemplate.jpg