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How Does the Idaho District Court Work?

Section 1–701 of the Idaho Statutes establishes District Courts in every county of the state. The Idaho District Court is a trial court having original jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases and proceedings. The court also has original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, habeas corpus, and all writs essential to the exercise of its powers. The Idaho District Court has a Magistrate Division that handles some types of cases.

Therefore, the District Court usually handles matters that are beyond the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Division. This includes criminal cases like felonies and lesser-included offenses and general civil cases with over $10,000 in dispute. Other cases that the District Court may preside over includes some probate, domestic relations, and juvenile cases.

The Idaho District Court also has appellate jurisdiction to hear cases from the magistrate’s division of the District Court, and all other cases wherein the law allows the appeal. Certain District Courts have specialized court programs for some types of cases, including Adult Drug Courts, DUI Courts, Adult Mental Health Courts, Family Dependency Treatment Courts, Juvenile Drug Courts, and Youth Courts.

The State of Idaho is divided into seven judicial districts. The District Court has four judges chosen by the qualified electors of the respective districts for a term of four years. If a district has more than one judge, the judges each have equal and coextensive jurisdiction with the boundaries of the district. The law designates the resident chambers of the district judges. The judges must reside in such places.

Each judicial district has an administrative judge elected by most of the district judges within the district. If the district judges cannot agree on the administrative judge, a majority of the Idaho supreme court justices may appoint the administrative judge. The administrative judge apportions the business of the district among the judges as equally as may be.

However, the district judges have full power to hold terms of court, make orders, transact judicial business, grant or refuse writs, and generally exercise all the powers of a district judge without the consent of the other judge or judges. The Idaho administrative judge, subject to the rules of the supreme court, has administrative authority and supervision over the operations of the District Courts and magistrates within the district.

As a result of all the additional duties, the administrative judge receives an annual salary that is $3,000 greater than the annual salary of a district judge. The administrative judge has the following powers and duties:

  • Arranging schedules and allotting district judges for District Courts sessions
  • Supervising or arranging the calendaring of matters for hearing or trial
  • Supervising the District Courts clerks in the discharge of clerical functions of the District Court
  • Allocating matters to magistrates, and stipulating times and places at which magistrates must be available for the performance of official duties
  • Arranging with the proper authorities for the drawing of civil jury panels and deciding which sessions of the District Court are jury sessions
  • Arranging the reporting of civil matters by court reporters or other authorized means
  • Arranging sessions for the trial of specialized cases, including domestic relations, traffic, and other types of cases, and allocating district judges to preside over these sessions to allow maximum practicable specialization by the judges
  • Designating magistrates to temporary duty outside the county of residence, but within the district
  • Serving as the chairman of the district magistrates commission
  • Allocating to other district judges in the district various duties and powers as provided by law
  • Appointing persons when necessary to attend to the courts, and allotting duties to these court attendants to maintain the efficiency and security of court facilities

An Idaho district judge may hold court in any county in the state upon the request of the respective district judge. If a court cannot be held because the judge is sick or absent from the state, the clerk must submit a certificate of that fact to the governor or chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, who may then direct another district judge to hold such court.

An Idaho District Court Judge may be removed or disciplined for any of the following reasons:

  • Purposeful misconduct in office
  • Willful and continuous failure to carry out the duties of the office
  • Habitual intemperance
  • Conduct that is detrimental to the administration of justice that brings disrepute to the judicial office

A judge may also be retired if the district judge has a disability that seriously deters the performance of official duties or that is likely to become permanent. The State of Idaho has a judicial council responsible for retiring, removing, and disciplining judges. Before that, the council may choose to conduct a hearing concerning the removal, retirement, or discipline of a district judge.

Otherwise, it may request the Supreme Court to designate three special masters, who are justices or judges, to hear and take evidence in any such actions, and to submit the findings to the council. If the council concludes that there is good reason, it recommends the discipline, retirement, or removal of the district judge.

On receiving such a recommendation, the Idaho Supreme Court assesses the record of the proceedings on the facts and law. It may then introduce more evidence and may order the removal, discipline, or retirement, as it believes is proper, or completely reject the recommendation.

The Idaho District Court has power to:

  • Keep and enforce order in its immediate presence and the proceedings before it or before a person or persons authorized by it to conduct a judicial investigation
  • Provide for the organized conduct of proceedings before the court or its officers
  • Compel compliance with its orders, judgments, process, and the judge’s rulings out of court in a pending action or proceeding
  • Control, as it relates to the furtherance of justice, the actions of its ministerial officers, and all other individuals in any manner connected with a judicial proceeding before it
  • Compel the attendance of individuals to testify in a pending case or proceeding
  • Administer oaths in a pending proceeding or action, and in all other cases where it may be essential in the exercise of its duties and powers
  • Control and amend its orders and process to make it conform to law and justice

The Idaho Judicial Branch has a modern electronic online judicial system where citizens may find court records, obtain county contact information, or make payments. Interested persons may search for Idaho District Court case records on the iCourt portal. Provide either the record number or the name of one of the parties.

For additional information on the records or for certified copies, contact the Office of the Clerk of the Court. To find the contact information of any of the District Courts in Idaho, visit the Judicial Branch’s website. Click on the relevant highlighted judicial district. Users are directed to the district’s official site. Select the applicable county for directions and other details.

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