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Recruitment, Selection, and
Performance Evaluation of Magistrate Judges
The proposed date
that the new judge takes office is reviewed with the Supreme Court to ensure
that adequate funds are available. A magistrate judge's appointment is subject
to a fiscal appropriation by the legislature.
The vacancy is
advertised in such a way that all lawyers in the state of Idaho are aware of
the opportunity to apply for the vacant position, including:
- Notices of the vacancy are sent to each lawyer
in the state by the Supreme Court. Notices include the legal requirements
for the position and an Equal Employment Opportunity ADA Statement.
- If possible (and depending upon publication
schedules), a notice of the vacancy is published in at least one issue of The
Advocate (the monthly publication of the Idaho State Bar
Association). Additional notices, as deemed necessary by the magistrates
commission, may also be distributed.
- A news release is made to newspapers of record
and broadcast media in the judicial district and, where appropriate, in
The period for
receipt of applications is long enough so that lawyers throughout the state
have a reasonable opportunity to submit a uniform standard magistrate
Once the deadline
for applications has passed, a news release is issued to newspapers of record
and broadcast media in the judicial district and in adjoining districts where
appropriate, listing the applicants to allow public notice and comment upon the
are received, an initial determination is made by the trial court administrator
as to whether each applicant satisfies the minimum statutory qualifications to
be a magistrate judge. The statutory qualifications to be a lawyer magistrate
- That the applicant be a qualified elector of
the state of Idaho.
- That an applicant shall have attained the age
of thirty (30) years prior to taking office.
- That an applicant be admitted to the practice
of law for at least five (5) years and is currently licensed to practice
law in the state of Idaho.
There is no
requirement that an applicant be a resident of the county at the time of
application; however, after appointment, an applicant must reside in the county
for which he/she is appointed at the earliest opportunity after taking office.
commission members determine the competence and experience qualifications which
are the most important in selecting a magistrate judge. A list of the
individual qualifications generally examined are:
- Integrity and moral courage
- Legal ability and experience
- Capacity to be fair-minded and deliberate
- Industriousness and promptness in performing
- Compatibility of personal habits and outside
activities with judicial office
- Capacity to be courteous and considerate on
- Legal research and writing
- Administrative skills
apply whatever weight to these individual qualifications they feel is
qualifications for magistrate judges may include:
- Awareness of recent legal developments
- Management abilities
- Patience and tolerance
- Listening skills
- Independence from public and political
solicited from practicing lawyers about all applicants in the following manner:
- Standard form questionnaires are distributed
to each practicing lawyer in the state, seeking an assessment of the
- Results of the questionnaire are compiled and
distributed to each member of the magistrates commission.
- The expense of the questionnaire and its
tabulation is borne by the Supreme Court which has developed a computer
program for this purpose.
Separate questionnaires are also distributed to district court clerk offices
which allows members of the public, who might wish to do so, to comment on
applicants. Such questionnaires are not "ballots" and require a
statement of the relationship to the applicant or the basis upon which any
public comments are made. All comments must be based on personal experience
with the candidate.
Prior to interviewing any applicants, the following background checks are made
by the Supreme Court and the results communicated to the trial court
administrator who distributes the information to magistrates commission
- State records are searched to determine
whether any of the applicants have a prior criminal history.
- The Idaho State Bar is contacted to obtain the
results of any complaints and/or discipline actions against an applicant.
- The Idaho State Tax Commission is contacted to
determine whether each of the applicants has filed all required state tax
returns, whether each applicant has timely paid all state tax liabilities
and/or whether the State Tax Commission has filed any liens against an
- The withheld judgment registry maintained by
the Idaho Supreme Court is examined.
- When desired by the magistrates commission, a
copy of university and law school transcripts are obtained for review by
(A standard waiver
statement is included in each signed magistrate applicant form to allow access
to the above records.)
The district trial
court administrator is responsible for contacting an applicant's personal and
professional references and for checking local criminal records.
Commission Proceedings and Related Matters
Persons who may be
present: Members of the public, press, and other judges may be present at the
interview stage of the selection process, but they may not be present during
the commission’s deliberations and vote on the applicants. With the approval of
the administrative district judge, the district trial court administrator may
be present at all proceedings of the magistrates commission.
of applicants: Magistrates commissions may adopt a process, subject to
standards of fairness, equal opportunity, and merit selection whereby the total
number of applications for a vacant position is reduced to a list of finalists
for purposes of receiving an interview by the magistrates commission.
outside of proceedings: Whether individual commission members should entertain
individual contacts by applicants or their supporters outside of commission
proceedings is a matter of preference to be decided by each magistrates
commission. It is the preference of the Third Judicial District Magistrates
Commission to NOT contact members either directly or indirectly. All contact
should be made in writing through the office of the Trial Court Administrator.
commission decides the method of voting in advance, including whether to avoid
a plurality vote on the first ballot to insure a candidate is not selected by a
minority of the commission.
Subject to the
fairness and equality standards and the suggested interview questions set out
above, the following interviewing techniques are suggested for use by
magistrates commission members when interviewing applicants:
- When interviewing applicants, magistrates
commission members should seek examples of occasions when particular job
qualifications were exhibited by the applicant. Examples of past behavior
are the appropriate measure of the applicant's probable future behavior.
Questions which ask for "an example of a time when you . . ."
are encouraged to provide a basis for evaluating the applicant's probable
success as a magistrate judge.
- Each applicant should be asked the same core
group of questions so that the magistrates commission may compare the
applicant's qualifications and so that each applicant is given an equal
opportunity to respond. Individualized questions may also be asked of a
particular applicant in order to solicit further information or to clarify
a response to one of the standard questions.
briefed at the interview that it is a condition of employment, and should be
requested to confirm, that if hired, they will:
- move to and reside in the official county of
residence at the earliest possible time after taking office and
- agree to travel throughout their district and
the state, as assigned, to hear cases.
Judges of the Magistrate Division
magistrates commission in each judicial district fills a vacancy or a new
judgeship by appointing a magistrate judge to an initial 18-month term of
office. Just prior to the conclusion of their first 18 months, the magistrate's
commission evaluates the performance of the new magistrate and may determine
that the judge has successfully completed their probationary period, they may
extend the probationary period, or they can remove the magistrate from office.
Afterwards, the judge must stand for retention election each four years on a
non-partisan, judicial ballot, wherein the electors of the judicial district
are asked: "Shall Magistrate Judge _________________ (name of the judge)
of ________________ (name of county) County of the Third Judicial District be
retained in office?" Yes No
To gather and
assess reliable information concerning judicial performance: (1) so that each
judge may maximize his or her potential for judicial excellence through
self-improvement, thereby enhancing the quality of justice to the public; (2)
to facilitate assignment and use of judges within the judiciary; (3) to assess
educational needs of new judges; and (4) to measure performance of the
newly-appointed magistrate to allow the commission to make a determination as
to whether the magistrate should be removed or retained during the initial
Criteria (Same as Recruitment and Selection Criteria Above)
- Once the magistrate judge takes office (and is
not disapproved by a majority of the district judges in the district), the
magistrate judge must satisfactorily complete an 18-month probationary
period prior to standing election. The magistrates commission conducts at
least one appraisal of the magistrate judge's performance prior to the
expiration of the probationary period.
- Observations or recommendations of the
magistrates commission as a result of studying the appraisals are
communicated to the magistrate judge, prior to the expiration of the
- Data Collection: Information is elicited from
a variety of reliable sources, encouraged by assuring confidentiality to
respondents, and should be based on first-hand, reasonably current
knowledge. It is recommended that data be collected through responses to
questionnaires only and personal interviews with court users not be
incorporated into the appraisal process. Appropriately drafted
questionnaires are made available to lawyers within the judicial district,
to court and county personnel, court users, colleagues of the judge, and
local court administrators.
- Synthesis and Analysis: Results of the
questionnaires are tabulated and analyzed by the trial court
- Usage: Results of the judicial performance
appraisal are communicated by the magistrates commission, through the
trial court administrator, to the individual judge. Results of the
judicial performance appraisal remain absolutely confidential. Because the
purpose of the judicial performance appraisal process is to provide an
opportunity to each judge for self-improvement, results of the judicial
performance appraisal are not published in any fashion, ranked in any way,
or made available to anyone except members of the magistrates commission,
administrative district judge, trial court administrator, and the judge
whose performance has been appraised. Educational needs, if any, shall be
communicated to the administrative director of the courts by the trial
- Magistrates commissions may also consider
asking judges whose performance is being appraised to complete a
self-assessment. The self-assessment is reviewed by the magistrates
commission, but it will be for the judge's own use.
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