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Judge not — or do

by RALPH BARTHOLDT
Staff Writer | June 3, 2020 1:00 AM

Applications being sought for First Judicial District

Three candidates will earn spots as North Idaho judges, likely before the end of this year.

A group of attorneys, judges and private citizens who make up the magistrates commission of Kootenai County’s First Judicial District is soliciting applications now for two magistrate judge positions for Kootenai County.

The positions will have chambers in the Kootenai County courthouse in Coeur d’Alene, and will likely be filled by October, according to the district.

In addition, the Legislature approved adding one more district judge to the First District, which includes the Panhandle’s five northern counties.

The district judge will be chambered in Sandpoint, but will help out with cases in Kootenai County, administrator Karlene Behringer said.

The First District had for years, by statute, operated with six district judges to oversee felony cases, Behringer said.

But a bill amending the statute to add a district judge to the Panhandle was introduced earlier this year and encountered little opposition.

It has been more than a decade since the number of district judges increased in the Panhandle, where the population has drastically increased. And caseloads reflect North Idaho’s rapid growth.

Applicants for the magistrate positions must be American citizens, they must be at least 30 years old and have been legal residents of Idaho for at least two years, according to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Applicants must be in good standing as active or judicial members of the Idaho state bar for at least two years and they must, for at least a year, have held a law license, or a judicial office for at least five years. In addition, they must be a qualified Idaho elector and after being appointed live in the county where the judge serves.

The annual magistrate salary is $129,800 plus benefits, according to the Idaho Supreme Court.

First District Administrative Judge Richard Christensen told the Legislature earlier this year that magistrates in the Panhandle carry loads much higher — more than 200 cases higher — than elsewhere in Idaho. District court judges also carry caseloads in the upper percentile compared to the rest of the state.

“The most notable change I’ve seen is an increase in the sheer number of cases,” Christensen said.

Civil cases in the district’s magistrate courts have increased from 11,158 in 2015 to more than 12,100 last year, while district judges carried an average of 447 cases in 2019 and magistrate judges carried an average of 1,900 cases annually.

Application forms are available on the Kootenai County website under the district court tab.

Applications can also be mailed to the Trial Court Administrator of First District of Idaho at the Kootenai County Courthouse.

For information call 208-446-1217

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