From the August 2001 Idaho Observer:

Templin's hosts state judicial conference

Judges wholly out of touch with common folk; view complainers as sore losers

By Rose Johnson and Don Harkins

POST FALLS -- Idaho courts were dark July 15-18 as some 120 of the state's judges gathered at Templin's Resort here for the 2001 Idaho Judicial Conference.

Alhough The IO was excluded from most of the events that were scheduled for the conference, we were able to identify an us-v.-them mentality among the judges at the “Special Problems with Judicial Ethics” portion of the conference.

Idaho Judicial Council (IJC) records published by Idaho J.A.I.L. for Judges discovered that from 1995 through 1999 over 900 complaints were filed against Idaho judges which resulted in only one disciplinary action for conduct or ethics violations.

IJC Director Roger Hamlin explained that the council has the difficult task of serving the needs of the public and being sensitive to the needs of judges. Hamlin stated that the IJC received 205 complaints in 2000, down from previous years. Hamlin was happy to report that, in the interest of serving the needs of the public, “95 percent” of the complaints were summarily dismissed “without having to recommend disciplinary action.”

Hamlin commented that most complaintants lost their cases in court and needed to take their disappointment out on someone; the judge being the most likely target.

Hamlin was obviously partial to the judges' positions regarding judicial complaints. Not once did he address cases of judicial contempt for the law and lack of due process that have become common knowledge all over the nation and can be witnessed on a daily basis in every Idaho court.

Reiko Callner of the Washington State Judicial Conduct Commission reiterated much of what Hamlin had to say but gave a startling insight into how citizens may be able to break through the wall that prevents errant judges from being appropriately disciplined.

She described how one Washington judge had a system worked out with his court reporter that would allow him to be secretly off the record at critical moments, and then go back on without anyone being the wiser. A complainant discovered the “secret code” and, sure enough, he was doing it and the judge lost his job, Callner said.

Other items on the judges' conference agenda included community outreach and garnering community support for court efforts, juror education and appreciation, courts as educators, working with youth and schools and a roundtable discussion regarding substance abuse, treatment and sentencing alternatives.

It was rumored that substance abuse is a problem among judges, their spouses and their children and that a special session was held to address that sensitive issue.

J.A.I.L. for judges

At no time did Hamlin or any of the other speakers mention that Judicial Accountability Initiative Law (J.A.I.L.) for judges has been introduced into the legislature. J.A.I.L. would effectively retire the IJC, a function of the Idaho State Supreme Court. It would appear that allowing judges to judge judges constitutes a conflict of interest that is supported by the percentages of complaints against judges that are summarily dismissed.

Freshman Representative Chris Ellis (R-Post Falls) attended the conference. Ellis seems concerned that the needs of people are not being met by the IJC and has expressed an interest in the passage of J.A.I.L. in Idaho.

Senator Clyde Boatright (R-Rathdrum), J.A.I.L. Senate sponsor, has been receiving cases of judicial misconduct from all over the state in response to ads in various newspapers.

The Idaho Observer sent descriptions of several cases of judicial misconduct and indicated evidence that supports each allegation.

Idaho JAIL 4 JUDGES is still accumulating complaints against judges to make a strong case for J.A.I.L. in the legislature next year. Complaints can be sent to Senator Boatright at: 17528 Wrangler Road, Rathdrum, Idaho 83858 or call (208) 687-0591.

Please also send copies of complaints to Idaho J.A.I.L. at: 8561 North Cloverleaf Road, #58, Hauser, Idaho 83854 or call (208) 773-6274.

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