It’s not something common in election years, but two of the members of Idaho’s congressional – one from each party – are working together to bring a third federal judgeship to the state. Democrat Walt Minnick and Republican Mike Simpson announced Wednesday that they are planning on introducing legislation to allow President Barack Obama to appoint a third federal judge for Idaho. Both men say that due to increases in Idaho’s population, the caseload for the two current judges has become massive.
Minnick, who will be the primary sponsor of the bill, said the need for another judge in the state is real. “Idahoans have a right to a speedy and efficient court system, and that requires having enough judges to handle the recent rapid growth in cases,” Minnick said. “My Idaho colleague Mike Simpson and I are doing all we can to address this serious issue.” Simpson, a co-sponsor of Minnick’s bill, said judges in Idaho are particularly overburdened when compared to federal judges in other states. “The caseload of the Idaho District Court has increased significantly in recent decades resulting in Idaho’s district judges carrying a disproportionate share of cases in relation to their colleagues in other states,” Simpson said. “It’s time to make this a reality.”
If the bill is approved by Congress, it would be the first time Idaho has received a new judge in 56 years. According to statistics released by the court, the caseload for Idaho’s federal judges has increased from about 83 a year in 2000 to about 230 annually in 2009, a jump of 173 percent. The figures show that when compared to other states of similar size that have three judgeships – Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, and South Dakota – Idaho has a higher caseload than all of them. The announcement by Minnick and Simpson said that Idaho has relied on guest judges from other federal courts to handle the difficult workload.
One of the federal judges in the state, Chief Judge Lynn B. Wynmill, thanked Simpson and Minnick for their work on the legislation. “I’m grateful for the leadership that Minnick and Simpson have shown on this critically important issue to our great state,” Winmill said. “Five and a half decades have passed since we last saw an increase in the number of federal district judges in Idaho. It is reassuring that our representatives are working hard in this bipartisan effort to address the needs of our growing population.”
View the full statistics on the caseload of Idaho’s federal judges here: Third Judgesehip Stats.