Election Central

Idaho Justice Eismann’s ‘temper tantrum’ draws national attention

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Daniel Eismann’s angry dissent in a medical malpractice case is making the rounds in national legal circles, including a piece published Tuesday in the legal blog Above the Law.

The commentary by Joe Patrice is titled, “Justice Accuses Colleagues Of Lying and Falsifying The Record,” and calls out Eismann for a “diatribe against his peers” that is “drenched in contempt.”

“Opinions like Justice Eismann’s not only leave a permanent record of insult, but undermine the court’s credibility when the public gets to look behind the curtain and see a childish temper tantrum,” writes Patrice of Eismann’s dissent in Nield v. Pocatello Health Services.

The opinion was issued Friday. An amended opinion was filed Tuesday to correct formatting errors; the text was unchanged.

Eismann’s colleagues likely attempted to talk him out of making accusations of intentional untruthfulness aimed at a win for the plaintiff, who lost a leg to an infection. Opinions are circulated with all members of the court before publication.

At page 22 of the opinion, Justice Warren Jones writes that it was only after “weeks of reflection and mixed feelings” that he decided to respond to Eismann’s “personal attacks more suited to a school yard argument among teenagers than to a professional legal discourse that should be expected in a judicial opinion.”

Jones was part of the 3-2 majority opinion written by Chief Justice Roger Burdick.

Justice Joel Horton joined Eismann in dissent on his legal reasoning, but distanced himself from Eismann’s questioning of his colleagues’ motives.

Jones and Horton face re-election in the May 20 primary. Eismann, Burdick and Justice Jim Jones are not on the 2014 ballot.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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Posted in Election Central, Idaho Politics