Idaho: “Magistrate shuffle” bill killed in committee; plan would remove guarantee that every county has at least 1 Magistrate’s Division judge

A plan that could have removed the guarantee that every Idaho county have at least 1 magistrate judge and that would have allowed sitting magistrates to be “shuffled” to other counties was killed in committee yesterday.

In Idaho, the Magistrate’s Division serves as the state’s court of limited jurisdiction.

SB 1104 as filed had three main elements

  1. Removed the guarantee that “there shall be at least one (1) resident magistrate judge appointed in each county.”
  2. Removed the power of the district magistrates commission to decide the number and location of magistrate judges and made their role advisory
  3. Allowed the supreme court to move a magistrate judgeship (when a vacancy) or sitting magistrate judge within the same judicial district, but only in counties with less than 0.4% of the state’s population (9 counties). Such a move would have been based on population and caseload.

Media reports indicate the bill faced strong opposition from more rural counties that have seen increasing caseloads but no increase in the number of magistrates.

Senior District Judge Barry Wood presented the bill on behalf of the judicial branch.

“The court believed that it was appropriate to bring this policy question back to the attention of the Idaho Legislature,” Wood said. “Specifically, whether the Legislature wanted to continue funding new positions, or to allow the court to relocate a handful of these judgeships from the least populated counties to where the need was most significant.”