Res ipsa loquitor: Craig, Kempthorne spoke up for Judge Winmill

Gov. Butch Otter’s blasting U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill for failing to honor Idaho values of freedom and the marketplace is in sharp contrast with testimony from Idaho GOP Sens. Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne as they urged Winmill’s speedy Senate confirmation 19 years ago.

Kempthorne said Winmill was a keeper of Biblical judicial values and “more than just a good lawyer,” as a “family-oriented man dedicated to the youth of his community.”

Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said this week of the governor’s critique of Winmill’s non-Idaho values: “Res ipsa loquitor” — Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.”

Appearing with Winmill before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 18, 1995, Kempthorne and Craig attested to Winmill’s character, judicial temperament, intellect and work ethic.

Perhaps most impressive to Kempthorne was Winmill’s dedication to Scouting. “He was a Boy Scout troop leader for four years, and every one — I repeat, every one — of his Scouts became an Eagle Scout.”

Testimony from Kempthorne and Craig covers three pages in a Judiciary Committee Report, which I obtained with help from the University of Idaho Library.

Kempthorne hailed Winmill’s Judeo-Christian values, saying, “Idaho deserves a judge who will honor the Old Testament admonition that justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, and Judge Winmill meets these tests.”

While in private practice Winmill also stayed consistent with Biblical traditions of charity, devoting as much as one-quarter of his time to “pro bono” work without pay.

“He is ranked among the State’s top four judges for resolving cases within time standards adopted by the Idaho Supreme Court,” said Kempthorne. “His reversal rate on appeal is among the State’s lowest.”

Craig, who had engineered Winmill’s appointment after objecting to a nominee offered by former Democratic Congressman Larry LaRocco, also was effusive.

“We recruited an extremely well-qualified and respected bipartisan commission of 9 individuals, from a former retired chief justice of our State court; a former U.S. attorney; senior members of the bar; both Republican and Democrat; current members of the Idaho Judicial Council; and others, including both the senate and house chairs of the judiciary committees of the Idaho Legislature,” Craig said.

“We set forth a criteria we were looking at as we examined the nominees, and this is what they said in the examination of Judge Winmill. It was the unanimous decision of the commission that Judge B. Lynn Winmill is extremely well qualified for the position of U.S. district judge for the District of Idaho.”

Added Craig: “I will not go into Judge Winmill’s record as a young man and as a judge. It is exemplary … He was on the short list to become Idaho Supreme Court Justice twice in the last 2 years, and although he has an unquestionable Democratic credential, the Republican Governor of Idaho (Phil Batt) also sends his full and unqualified support for this judge.”

Kempthorne urged Winmill’s speedy confirmation, advice the Senate heeded. Winmill was confirmed on Aug. 11, 1995, about three weeks after the confirmation hearing.


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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