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Little’s Supreme Court appointment of Cynthia Meyer is probably mostly about gender

Little’s Supreme Court appointment of Cynthia Meyer is probably mostly about gender

Wayne Hoffman
November 6, 2023
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November 6, 2023

All this time, I put former Attorney General Lawrence Wasden as the odds-on favorite for being added to the state Supreme Court. He was Gov. Brad Little's bootlicking footsoldier, especially during the time of COVID, giving the governor unchallenged authority to unilaterally change laws, spend money without the approval of the Legislature, and ignore the plain language of the state constitution. And having lost his reelection bid in May 2022, the typical practice was for Little to pay Wasden back with an appointment. 

Ah, but I ignored the modern factors that go into deciding appointments. Making history is among those. In this case, the governor decided to appoint 1st District Judge Cynthia Meyer, not Wasden. 

It’s history-making because her appointment gives Idaho its first majority-female Supreme Court. Three of the five justices are now women. Wasden doesn’t have the right genitalia. 

Wasden could, I guess, “identify” as something other than male, but that’ll be for some other history-making governor in the future, with the current trajectory of the country.  

Meyer also probably won points for having recently engaged in a smackdown with conservatives on the board of North Idaho College (NIC). It was Meyer who ruled that the NIC board improperly fired the school’s previous president, Nick Swayne, and ordered him reinstated. No doubt Little takes some amount of joy in appointing someone that will instantly irk conservatives.

I know little else about Meyer. Her official website with the Kootenai County courts has some of her opinions on there, the most recent of those having been issued in 2017. 

Her 30-minute interview with the Idaho Judicial Council, again, yields little information. Chief Justice Richard Bevan asked about her "willingness to be part of the team … and to collaborate." Lobbyist Phil Reberger asked her about maintaining the judicial canon of ethics so that the public will continue "having high confidence in the judiciary."

In his questioning of Meyer, Idaho Falls lawyer John Bush misquoted Ben Franklin (he couldn't even remember whom to attribute the quote) when Franklin was asked what kind of government the newly drafted Constitution had given us: "A democracy, if you can keep it," Bush recalled, inartfully. Franklin is quoted as saying, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” The distinction matters, as our country's founders did not want a democracy. Meyer, who said she was a political science major, didn't challenge the misstatement.

There’s an argument to be made that Meyer’s other qualification is that she’s from North Idaho, which would make her a geographic anomaly. And maybe that plays into the governor’s decision, too, which was mentioned in his press release announcing the appointment. 

Little said, “Judge Meyer’s strong intellect and writing skills are just two qualities that will make her an excellent addition to the Idaho Supreme Court. Her appointment will bring representation from North Idaho to the statewide Idaho Supreme Court, and the materials I reviewed in considering her appointment are evidence she is widely respected by her peers and community as an intelligent, fair, and competent jurist.”

Just once I would like a judicial appointment process that is transparent and thorough. We don’t know what kind of a Supreme Court justice Meyer will be because the system is designed to be opaque. So, while others might dispute my assessment of the situation, that it was designed to be history-making, the record for Meyer’s appointment doesn’t bring anything worthy of celebration except for the fact that Wasden wasn’t picked.

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