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House Bill 600 — Judicial appointments

House Bill 600 — Judicial appointments

Wayne Hoffman
February 28, 2022

Description: House Bill 600 would make some records related to the selection of judicial appointments public and would lessen the possibility of “stacking” the list of nominees by the Judicial Council.

Rating: +1

Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency, accountability, or election integrity? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency, accountability, or election integrity?

This legislation would open to public scrutiny certain records not presently available about judicial candidates. The bill would require that “the judicial council rating of candidates for a judicial vacancy whose names are submitted to the governor and the tabulated scores from attorney questionnaires on the qualifications of those candidates shall be public.”

There is a lack of transparency from the Idaho Judicial Council. The IFF has noted that the Council commonly deletes videos of its interviews of judicial candidates, reducing the likelihood that the public will ever be able to fully understand why a Judicial Council certain individuals were offered to the governor as candidates for a vacancy. This bill does not address that concern, but it would help shed light on the agency’s activities. 


Analyst note: This legislation also would change state law so that the governor may reject a list of the three candidates submitted to him for a judicial vacancy, compelling the Judicial Council to submit a new list of potential nominees to the governor. The purpose of that change is to prevent the Council from “stacking” its list so that the governor is forced to select from candidates that all have the same attributes. There are some benefits to this policy outcome, and perhaps some concerns, for example, that the governor then has more power over the judicial selection process. It is important to remember that, as the governor is the elected head of the executive branch, he arguably should have more say than that of the unelected Judicial Council. However, there is no metric in the Freedom Index that captures this particular argument, and so therefore that portion of the bill is considered further as it applies to the Freedom Index.

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