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Bradbury wants transparency in courtroom

by Tom Hasslinger
| April 23, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - John Bradbury has one more fight in him.

And that fight is for a seat on the Idaho Supreme Court, the bench the 2nd District judge wants to use to make Idaho's judicial system more transparent and user-friendly.

"It really doesn't matter how good a court system is if the average person can't afford it," Bradbury said. "And there's lots of things we can do to change that."

Bradbury lost his 2008 run for a seat on the high court by 253 votes, but is sticking with the issues he raised on his last campaign to try to change Idaho's judicial system.

Tops on that list are making court affordable for people by creating night and weekend court so defendants don't have to miss work, and implementing teleconferencing calls to cut down on the hours attorneys accumulate traveling to and waiting on simple motions.

"Instead of hours, it's minutes," he said of the expedited hearings with more appointment opportunities and telephone conferences. "You have to make it easier to use."

Born in Orofino and raised in Clearwater County, Bradbury has been a district judge since 2002.

By cutting down on court costs and by not encouraging parties to settle, Bradbury has tackled 70 cases in seven full years on the bench, the most in the 2nd District. His predecessor averaged one trial a year.

"I've opened up the court system," he said. "I put no pressure on them to settle and I try to make it as inexpensive as possible. I think I've shown if people can afford the system and trust the system they'll use it."

If elected, Bradbury, 73, would be the only North Idaho judge on the five-seat high court. He's running against Roger Burdick of Boise in the May 25 primary election.

Bradbury said he would encourage changing the way judges operate, including putting pressure on the Legislature to change laws governing political judge appointments and offering complaints and files on judges for public viewing.

"They've eliminated accountability for judges," he said. "It's disgraceful that judges who swear to uphold the Idaho Constitution do an end-around."

Bradbury said the seats are kept from voters because judges often retire before the term ends, leaving the governor to appoint a successor. The new judge then runs again as an incumbent, and attorneys rarely support the incumbent's opponent for fear of retribution in the courtroom.

"The biggest incentive for public officials to behave themselves is the public vote," Bradbury said, adding that of the 51 district judges up for election this year, only two are in contested races.

He said he would also encourage the Legislature to allow complaints and files on judges to be public record.

Bradbury has a 45-year legal career, practicing law in Idaho, Washington and Alaska. He served as a special assistant to the Washington State attorney general.

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