Otter’s blast at Judge Winmill: He’s not one of us

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter says U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill is out of touch with Idaho values, including freedom and the marketplace.

Otter called out Winmill during his Feb. 7 “Capitol for a Day” in Craigmont, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

Otter “urged people to understand their votes matter in coming elections because public officials are responsible for appointing judges like Idaho U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, who he said might not share Idaho’s values,” wrote the Tribune’s Dylan Brown in a story a available online to Tribune subscribers.

“It’s usually one that doesn’t share all of the enthusiasm for the marketplace and freedom that we do in Idaho,” Otter said of errant judges like Winmill.

It’s not every day a governor questions the values of an Idaho federal judge, so I queried Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian: “Could I please get some elaboration on what the governor meant in Craigmont about Judge Winmill not sharing Idaho values?”

Hanian’s reply was eight words of bilingual economy: “As they say in court: Res ipsa loquitor.”

That Latin phrase, important in western legal tradition, translates as, “the thing speaks for itself.”

The same might be said about Winmill’s biography. The judge himself declined comment.

Winmill, 61, is a fourth-generation Idahoan, whose grandparents homesteaded in Eastern Idaho. He was born and raised near Blackfoot, on a dairy and sugar beet farm.

He graduated from Idaho State University in 1974. He has won the Distinguished Alumni Award from ISU’s College of Arts and Sciences and was named Statesman of the Year by the political science honorary fraternity.

In 1977, Winmill graduated from Harvard Law School. He worked at the Denver firm of Holland and Hart for two years before coming home to Pocatello to practice with Don Burnett. Burnett is now the interim president of the University of Idaho and dean of the U of I Law School. A former Bannock County Democratic chairman, Winmill chaired former Rep. Richard Stallings’ 1984 upset campaign against former GOP Rep. George Hansen.

In 1987, Winmill left private practice when he was appointed a state district judge by Gov. Cecil Andrus, with chambers in Pocatello. In 1993, Winmill sentenced James Edward Wood to death for one of most gruesome crimes in Idaho history, the kidnapping, rape, shooting and dismemberment of 11-year-old newspaper carrier Jeralee Underwood. Wood died of natural causes in prison in 1994, with appeals pending.

While a district judge, Winmill was twice named by the Idaho Judicial Council as finalist for appointment to the Idaho Supreme Court.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Winmill to the federal bench, with support from Idaho Republican Sens. Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne. Said then-Craig Chief of Staff Greg Casey: “Lynn Winmill is a very conservative man.”

In 1999, Winmill succeeded Judge Edward Lodge as chief judge.

Among Winmill’s notable cases:

Ordering the unwinding of St. Luke’s buyout of the Saltzer Medical Group under U.S. anti-trust laws; both upholding and limiting 1st Amendment rights of Occupy Boise protesters; siding with the Idaho Republican Party in closing its primary to independent voters; delaying megaload transports over U.S. Highway 12 and ordering the U.S. Forest Service to assess environmental impacts; striking down as unconstitutional anti-abortion laws; and ordering the federal government to review whether enough has been done to keep sage grouse off the Endangered Species List.

Winmill and his wife, Judy, have been married over 40 years. They have four children, who Winmill coached in soccer and basketball. He is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a former scoutmaster.

He has never been convicted of DUI or any other crime.

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.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Idaho Politics