I was recently asked to be part of a team of city, county and court representatives to talk about funding of our Idaho Court system. It is always interesting to work with others to try to find solutions to such diverse issues. To make sure I had a clear picture I decided to go back and revisit on paper, of course, our courts and thought I would share the information as a refresher. The information comes from the Idaho Supreme Court website and the Idaho Bar Association website.
The Idaho State Court system is made up of three levels: District Courts which include Magistrate courts and are the trial courts; Court of Appeals; and the highest court, the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and four Associate Justices that are elected at-large in staggered terms every 6 years in a non-partisan election. They do not run on a party line ticket. Only occasionally are there races such as we saw this past year. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over 1) Claims against the State (advisory opinions) and 2) Extraordinary writs. They have appellate or appeals jurisdiction over appeals from interim orders and final judgment in district courts and direct appeals from certain administrative agencies.
The Court of Appeals is made up of a Chief Judge and three Associate Judges. The judges also serve staggered 6 year terms and are elected non-partisan. Their cases are limited to appeals assigned to them by the Supreme Court and come from the district courts.
The State of Idaho is divided into 7 judicial districts. We reside in the third Judicial District which includes Adams, Washington, Payette, Gem, Canyon and Owyhee Counties. Each county houses a District Court. Magistrate Courts are also under the same judicial districts. District Judges are non-partisan and are up for re-election every four years in the district they serve.
In the District Courts, judges have original jurisdiction over 1) personal injury and other civil claims; 2) Contracts; 3) Property Disputes; and 4) Felonies, which are crimes punishable by a fine or incarceration in the penitentiary as well as civil disputes when the amount of money is above $10,000. They also hear appeals from Magistrate Court, small claims departments, and state agencies and boards.
Magistrate Court judges hear criminal cases punishable by a fine or incarceration in the county jail. This includes misdemeanors and infractions. They also have jurisdiction over 1) civil actions up to $10,000 which include personal injury, property disputes, contracts, etc.; 2) Small claims; 3) Traffic cases; 4) Probate of Estates; 5) Juvenile correction proceedings; 6) Child Protective proceedings; 7)Arrest Warrants; search and seizures; 7) Preliminary hearings for probable cause on felony complaints; and 8) Domestic Relations.
Each county has at least one Magistrate Judge. Larger counties have more judges and in some smaller counties, their judges travel to supplement other counties. Our local Magistrate is Judge Frates who does travel to other jurisdictions to help out. Our local District Judge is Judge Wiebe.
So why the committee I am serving on. The Courts are facing increased costs as are other Counties. Cities and many agencies. How do we fund the courts and our ever growing law enforcement costs. That is the question we are being asked to address. How does society pay for the dysfunction we see without trying to pick each other’s pockets. I will talk next week about some of the fees and fines and where they go to help pay for the Court process. Stay tuned or skip next week, depending on your interest.
Don’t forget the Community Pond cleanup on June 2 beginning at 9 a.m.