The Idaho Judicial Council is calling for applications by July 25 for a Dec. 31 vacancy on the Idaho Supreme Court that will occur when current Justice Joel Horton retires — which means current Gov. Butch Otter, rather than the new governor who takes office in January, likely will make the appointment.
In his 12 years as governor, Otter has thus far appointed four Idaho Supreme Court justices, four Court of Appeals judges, and more than 40 district judges. Otter’s most recent appointment to the state’s highest court was 2nd District Judge John Stegner of Moscow, who was just installed on the court last week.
David W. “Tony” Cantrill, executive director of the Idaho Judicial Council, noted that 14 people applied for the last opening on Idaho’s highest court. “I fully expect there will be that many again,” he said. “It’s a job that a lot of judges and a lot of lawyers want.”
Qualifications for the post, by state law, include being at least 30 years old, being a citizen of the United States and a registered Idaho voter, having resided in Idaho for at least two years, and having been a member in good standing of the Idaho Bar for at least 10 years. That includes actively practicing as a lawyer or serving as a judge.
Justices on the Idaho Supreme Court earn a salary of $151,400 per year. The high court has five members, including its chief justice, who is selected by the other members.
The upcoming opening comes because Justice Joel Horton, 58, who has served on the court since 2007 and previously served as both a district judge and a magistrate judge in Boise, announced he plans to retire.
The last round of applicants for the opening to which Stegner was appointed included six sitting judges. All were publicly interviewed by the Idaho Judicial Council, which recommended four finalists to Otter: Stegner; 7th District Judge Greg Moeller of Rexburg; Boise attorney Christine Salmi; and 3rd District Judge Susan Wiebe of Fruitland.
A similar process will be followed for this opening. Cantrill said the council’s interviews with the candidates have been set for Oct. 29-30. The process also includes surveys of members of the Idaho Bar about the candidates’ qualifications.
Mark Warbis, Otter’s communications director, said, “Governor Otter appreciates the Idaho Judicial Council’s timely call for applications and looks forward to reviewing the candidates it sends him. Selecting jurists for Idaho’s appellate courts always is a great honor and serious responsibility. These individuals provide an essential service for Idaho citizens, and these appointments impact the law and public policy in Idaho for years to come.”
Stegner was appointed to the high court to replace former Justice Warren Jones, who retired Dec. 31, 2017, due to health reasons.