Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones has reversed course and decided not to debate Judge John Bradbury over some of Bradbury’s campaign talking points. Jones had given Bradbury three possible dates for a debate in Boise after Bradbury said he’d meet Jones for a debate “anytime, anywhere” in a Twin Falls Times-News story.
Now, Jones said that because of plenty of opposition to Bradbury’s campaign, a debate is no longer needed. “A Jones-Bradbury debate would serve no purpose at this point and merely distract from an important Supreme Court contest,” Jones told reporters in an e-mail. Bradbury is challenging Justice Roger Burdick for a Supreme Court seat, while Jones is running unopposed for another six-year term on the court.
Burdick and Bradbury met in a televised debate May 4. Bradbury had told IdahoReporter.com that he’d accepted Jones’ offer for a debate and was working out scheduling.
In a letter to Bradbury dated on Monday, Jones included a point-by-point response to some of Bradbury’s criticisms of Idaho courts offered during the campaign. Jones rejected Bradbury’s claim that Idaho’s senior judges program, which pays retired elected judges to hear cases, wastes taxpayers’ money. He also said the court system is working to encourage more women and minorities to apply for judicial positions. Bradbury has denounced the lack of diversity on the bench in Idaho. Jones also said that the state can’t impose restrictions on when judges can retire. Bradbury has said judges often retire during the middle of a session, so that an appointed replacement won’t need to win an election to get the job.
Jones didn’t mention all of Bradbury’s criticisms of the court. There was no mention in the letter of the confidential nature of formal complaints against judges, which Bradbury opposes.
Read Jones’ letter to Bradbury below.
Dear Judge Bradbury:
In light of recent events, I see no point in pursuing the debate to which you challenged me. I had accepted your debate challenge out of concern that people might start to believe your unfounded allegations against the judiciary, if they were repeated often enough and not challenged with the true facts. However, based upon subsequent statements by others, including responses by legislators and other judges, I see no need to take further steps to protect the Court.
You will recall that I issued a statement on behalf of the Supreme Court correcting a number of allegations in your campaign leaflet. In response, you told the Times-News, “If Jones thinks I’ve got my facts wrong, I’ll meet him anytime, anywhere for a debate.” Based upon that, I agreed to debate with regard to your “facts”.
You had implied that the Idaho judiciary feathers its own nest by paying senior judges to work part-time for almost the same pay as if they work full-time. You ended the piece “One judge for the price of two?”
This statement is, without debate, untrue, as the chairmen of the Legislature’s House and Senate judiciary committees have subsequently pointed out and as a senior judge from Oakley has stated in a letter to the Times-News. Debating this issue would be pointless because the facts are the facts.
In your campaign piece, you asked, “Does the Idaho Judiciary Discriminate?” Your implication was that the Idaho judiciary makes judicial appointments and because few Idaho women are appointed to judicial slots, it is the responsibility of the Supreme Court. This is a clear distortion because the Idaho judiciary does not appoint judges. Judges are appointed by the Governor. The Idaho Supreme Court has been concerned about the small number of applicants for some judicial positions in recent years, including women and minorities, and has conducted a comprehensive study to find what can be done to increase the number of applicants. Chief Judge Karen Lansing and Judge Sergio Gutierrez will be reporting their findings and recommendations in the coming weeks. Again, this is a matter that is not subject to debate.
You implied that judges retire early so their successors can be appointed and that this violates the Constitution. The Constitution contains absolutely no restriction on when a judge may retire. Under our Constitution the Governor is to fill an office when it is “vacated by death, resignation or otherwise.” This matter is not subject to debate.
You claimed that the Supreme Court refused to consider night court but that is simply not the case. Any judge in the state may set up a night court if he or she is able to convince the county commissioners to pay the extra cost. They have been tried in three counties in the last 30 years and the citizens simply haven’t utilized them enough to justify the cost.
Since these issues are not legitimately subject to debate, I am not sure what purpose a debate would serve. Further, any debate between us would be a distraction from the important Supreme Court contest which will be decided on May 25. I appreciate the invitation but at this point must respectfully decline.