Wednesday, January 5, 2011

High court reinstates judge DQ rule

New order effective with start of new year

Express Staff Writer

Prosecutors in Idaho can once again disqualify judges from criminal cases without explaining why.

A new order from the Idaho Supreme Court reinstating the controversial disqualification provision went into effect Jan 1. The provision also allows defense attorneys to disqualify judges.

The order was signed on Dec. 27, by Chief Justice Daniel Eismann, who also signed an order on July 23 suspending the rule. The suspension order stated that the provision had been "used excessively and abused," but did not state where or when the excessiveness and abuse occurred.

Likewise, the new order does not state why the high court had a change of mind.

The disqualification provision is found in Idaho Criminal Rule 25, which states that a prosecutor or defense attorney can disqualify one magistrate court judge and one district court judge without explanation. Beyond that, attorneys are required to explain why they don't want a particular judge on a case and the judge in question is allowed to make a ruling.

Blaine County 5th District Court Judge Robert J. Elgee was the victim of numerous disqualifications filed by the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office in late 2008 and early 2009. Elgee and Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas have since worked out their differences, though neither has been willing to publicly state what they involved.

Terry Smith:

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