Idaho Congressmen Go A-courting for New Federal Judgeship

By Tom Bacon

At least three members of Idaho's congressional delegation think it's time to create a new federal court in the state. But getting one up and running - and a new judge to preside over it - could be fraught with political pitfalls.

Both Idaho senators - Mike Crapo and Jim Risch - have introduced a bill to create an additional federal court in Idaho, and veteran Congressman Mike Simpson has written a companion bill in the House. The state has only two federal judges now, with caseloads that are far heavier than the average across the country. Crapo noted that Idaho has not added a new federal judgeship since 1954, while the state's population has grown substantially.

Creation of a new court may not be an especially contentious issue in Congress, but nominating a judge to run it, and winning confirmation in the Senate could be. The unwritten, but closely followed, rule of Senatorial courtesy means that judicial nominees are first vetted by senators, who then send the names to the president for nomination.

But in Idaho's case, both senators are poles apart from the president on political philosophy. And both senators have a consistent record of opposing President OBama's judicial nominees.

Even though Senate rules against filibustering presidential nominees have been strengthened, it's still hard to get any judicial nomination up for a vote. There are now 96 judicial vacancies in the country.
Idaho is one of only three states to have just two functioning federal courts. The two judges are based in Boise, but they also do regular circuit duty in Coeur d' Alene, Moscow and Pocatello.
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