Simpson renews effort to get third federal judge for Idaho

After hearing from Idaho’s federal judges about booming caseloads, Republican Rep. Mike Simpson is making another attempt to add a third U.S. district judge.

Simpson’s H.R. 3457, introduced last week, revives a bill he co-sponsored in 2010 with then-Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick. Like other attempts in years past, the measure did not advance.

It’s been 59 years since Idaho got a second district judge. With caseloads up 30 percent in the last six years, visiting judges from other states help bridge the gap.

Simpson says a recent meeting with Idaho’s federal judges spurred him to try again to expand their number.

In August, Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill and Chief Bankruptcy Judge Terry Myers wrote Simpson and the other three members of the Idaho congressional delegation saying the federal courts in Idaho are “facing a financial crisis which is unparalleled in our 150-year history.”

The judges cited slowed spending and across-the-board sequestration cuts that began March 1.

“It is far past time for Idaho to get a third district judge and the bill I have introduced will provide the additional judge that our state needs,” Simpson said in a news release. “I recently met with Idaho’s federal judges and heard directly from them about the serious impact budget cuts, sequester, and the lack of an additional judge are having on the federal courts in Idaho. While I am fully cognizant of the budget crisis facing our country, I share the judges’ concerns about delays in the administration of justice and the impact that has on the Constitutional role of the courts.”

Simpson’s news release follows:

 

Simpson Introduces Legislation to Provide

Idaho a Third District Judge

Washington, D.C. – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson has introduced legislation, H.R. 3457, to add a judge to Idaho’s federal court system, which has a ballooning caseload and just two U.S. district judges. Simpson’s legislation directs the appointment of a third district judge in Idaho.

“It is far past time for Idaho to get a third district judge and the bill I have introduced will provide the additional judge that our state needs,” said Simpson. “I recently met with Idaho’s federal judges and heard directly from them about the serious impact budget cuts, sequester, and the lack of an additional judge are having on the federal courts in Idaho. While I am fully cognizant of the budget crisis facing our country, I share the judges’ concerns about delays in the administration of justice and the impact that has on the Constitutional role of the courts.”

As Idaho’s population has grown, so has the number of court cases.  Between 2007 and 2013 the District of Idaho has experienced a 26% increase in total filings and pending caseloads have increased 30%.  Idaho has a heavier caseload than other rural states that already have three federal district judges (Alaska, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming).  The challenge of an overloaded court is further compounded by the budget shortages, further impacting the court’s ability to function properly and serve Idahoans.

“For years I’ve advocated adding a new judge in Idaho because we need it as much as anywhere in the country,” said Simpson.  “Idahoans deserve access to an efficient court system, and this bill would do much to ensure their continued access to it.”

Simpson and former Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick introduced similar legislation in 2010.  It has been 59 years since the number of district judges in Idaho has been increased.

 

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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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