Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Judges square off for high court seat

Justice Burdick challenged by Judge Bradbury

Express Staff Writer

Judge John Bradbury doesn't describe himself as a judicial reformer, but he claims nonetheless that he's out to reform Idaho's judicial system.

His election opponent, Idaho Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick, says Bradbury's campaign platform is "just political fodder that he brings out every two years."

After nearly toppling Supreme Court Justice Joel Horton in 2008, Bradbury, a district court judge from the 2nd Judicial District in northern Idaho, is taking another shot at winning a seat on Idaho's high court. In the 2008 election, Horton defeated Bradbury by only 253 votes out of more than 151,000 cast.

Burdick, a former 5th Judicial District judge in Twin Falls, ran opposed in 2004.

Idaho's voters will decide between Bradbury and Burdick in the May 25 primary election. Supreme Court justices serve six-year terms.

Both Bradbury and Burdick were recently interviewed by the Idaho Mountain Express.

John Bradbury

Judge John Bradbury says the Idaho Supreme Court is a “good-old-boy” system and that the state’s judicial system is in serious need of reform.

Bradbury called the Idaho Supreme Court a "good-old-boy system."

"That's how it works and I think that's a disgrace," he said.

He said Idaho's judicial system is in serious need of reform, and that he's running for a seat on the Supreme Court because that's the best place to start.

"My primary complaint is that the system is not affordable to the average citizen," Bradbury said.

One of the problems, he said, is that court cases in Idaho tend to drag on for months, which tends to run up fees that litigants pay to lawyers.

"The longer a case lasts, the more it will cost," Bradbury said. "They, attorneys, will fill up the void. You go to trial, and you're looking at $20,000-$30,000. People can't afford that anymore."

Bradbury said he helps keep litigant costs down in the 2nd Judicial District by putting strict deadlines on court filings and by not allowing cases to become bogged down by time-consuming procedures.

"The judge can set the pace—he sets the hearings," Bradbury said.

Bradbury, who serves Clearwater, Idaho and Lewis counties, said he saves on travel time and costs for litigants by holding many hearings by telephone or video conferencing.

He said the Idaho Supreme Court sets the example for lower courts in the state and that judicial reform has been seriously needed for years but nothing has been done.

"What I can tell you is that if I'm not elected, it probably will not happen," Bradbury said.

Bradbury said his opponent has been a judge for 28 years and "I still haven't heard a suggestion from him as to how to improve the system."

Roger Burdick

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick is taking an election challenge seriously, saying his opponent is not the “type of person” to be involved in running the state’s judicial system.

Burdick said reforms suggested by Bradbury are either outside the purview of the Supreme Court or are already available for implementation by judges on a district court level. He said Bradbury wants to implement "night court" but has failed to do so in his own judicial district.

Burdick said a survey of attorneys and judges recently conducted by the Idaho State Bar shows that he is considered by the legal community as a much better candidate for high court justice than his opponent.

In that survey, attorneys and judges were asked to score candidates on a scale of 1-4 in four areas: integrity and independence, knowledge and understanding of the law, judicial temperament and demeanor and legal ability and experience. Burdick received an overall score of 3.6, compared to an overall score for Bradbury of 2.

Burdick said he also has much greater experience in Idaho issues than does Bradbury.

"He's basically retired to the bench in Idaho after a career in Seattle and Anchorage," Burdick said.

As a former water rights judge, Burdick called himself more qualified to rule on water issues.

"The most important reason I want to be re-elected is water law, especially in this valley," he said, referring to Blaine County. "There are going to be numerous cases in this valley that make it to the Idaho Supreme Court. I'm the only justice on the Supreme Court that's been a water judge."

Terry Smith:

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