How Does the Idaho Magistrate Court Work?
Section 1–2201 of the Idaho Statutes establishes the Idaho Magistrate Court. The court is a division of the Idaho District Court and has limited jurisdiction. The Idaho Magistrate Court has jurisdiction over the following types of cases:
- Civil claims not exceeding $5000
- Actions to recover money arising from contracts, express or implied
- Actions for damages for injury to property, person or reputation, or for collecting or detaining personal property, or for fraud
- Claims for rent and distress for rent
- Proceedings in garnishment, attachment, trial or right of personal property and exemptions, wage deductions for the benefit of creditors, and supplementary proceedings
- Matters arising under the laws for the incorporation of cities or counties, cases that have to do with strays and lost property, the seizure, condemnation, and forfeiture of personal property, and actions for the abatement or confiscation of nuisances
- Actions to obtain taxes
- Cases of forcible detainer, forcible entry, and unlawful detainer
- Proceedings to enforce and foreclose common law and statutory liens
- Probates of wills proceedings, as well as the administration of estates of decedents, incompetents, and minors
- Misdemeanor and quasi-criminal cases
- Proceedings to deter the commission of crimes
- Proceedings relating to warrants for searches or seizures or arrest
- Traffic violations
- Juvenile proceedings other than those excluded by law
- Proceedings for a preliminary examination to establish probable cause, commitment before the trial, or the discharge on bail of persons charged with criminal offenses
In Idaho, each judicial district has a district magistrates commission in charge of appointing the magistrates within the district on a nonpartisan basis. The commission also determines the number and location of the Idaho magistrate judges appointed within a district. However, the law requires that each county has at least one resident magistrate judge. This is unless the county, through its board of county commissioners, adopts a resolution by majority vote, without subsequent rescission to waive the right to a resident magistrate judge.
The commission conducts studies to develop the administration of justice within the district. It makes suggestions for improvements to the legislature, the supreme court, and other governmental agencies that may be affected or interested in such recommendations. The members of the Idaho district magistrates commission must be over the age of majority, a resident of the state and district, a U.S. citizen, and of good moral character. The district magistrate commission consists of:
- The board chairman of county commissioners for each county in the district or a board member designated by the chairman,
- The mayors of three municipalities appointed by the governor,
- The district’s administrative judge or a designated district judge,
- Two attorneys nominated by the bar association in the district and appointed by the state bar,
- A magistrate judge in the district,
- A county clerk in the district appointed by the administrative district judge
The two attorney members of the commission serve for two years and may be appointed for two additional terms. The mayors serve for six years and may be appointed for an additional tenure provided that the term ends as soon as the mayor leaves office. The magistrate judge and the county clerk serve for two years but may be reappointed for another four years.
To be eligible for the position of an Idaho magistrate judge, a person must meet the following requirements:
- Be a United States citizen
- Be lawfully registered to vote in the State of Idaho
- Reside in the applicable county
- Be at least 30 years old
- Have been a resident of the state for at least two consecutive years before the appointment
- Have been in good standing as a judicial or active member of the State Bar for at least two years
- Hold a license to practice law or have held a judicial position for at least five consecutive years before the appointment
The magistrate stays in office for a four-year tenure and may be assigned internal administrative functions of the magistrate court. Note, any magistrate judge assigned to handle juvenile delinquency matters must receive instruction in a course designed to train judges of juvenile courts. The administrative director of the courts is responsible for arranging to give this appropriate instruction to magistrate judges as required.
The Idaho Supreme Court has the power to stipulate additional categories of cases assignable to magistrates. However, the following matters cannot be assigned to magistrates who are not attorneys:
- Civil claims that exceed $5,000
- Criminal cases in which the maximum authorized punishment is more than the sentence approved for misdemeanors
- Proceedings that involve the custody of minors
- All habeas corpus proceedings
- Divorce, annulment, or separate maintenance proceedings
- Proceedings in quo warranty, or for an injunction, mandamus, prohibition, ne exeat, or appointment of a receiver
The Supreme Court may also appoint an attorney magistrate to temporary service on the Supreme Court. However, if the attorney magistrate has participated in the case, or the matter originated from the attorney’s judicial district, the attorney magistrate cannot hear and determine the case.
In Idaho, Magistrate Court cases that require a jury must consist of six jury members, unless the parties consent in open court to a lesser number. Any party aggrieved with a judgment of the Idaho Magistrate Court may appeal to the relevant District Court.
An Idaho Magistrate Court Judge may be removed or disciplined for any of the following reasons:
- Deliberate misconduct while in office
- Conscious and continual failure to carry out the duties of the judicial office
- Habitual intemperance
- Conduct that is damaging to the administration of justice and also brings disrepute to the judicial office
A magistrate may also be retired if the magistrate judge has a disability that seriously inhibits the performance of official duties or that has the potential to become permanent. The State of Idaho has a judicial council that can retire, remove, and discipline magistrates. Before doing any of that, the judicial council may decide to carry out a hearing regarding the removal, retirement, or discipline of an Idaho magistrate judge.
Otherwise, the council may request the Supreme Court to appoint three special masters, who are justices or judges, to hear and take evidence in any such cases, and to report the findings to the council. If the judicial council concludes that there is good reason, it recommends the discipline, retirement, or removal of the magistrate judge.
On receiving such a recommendation, the Supreme Court evaluates the record of the proceedings on the facts and law. It may authorize additional evidence and may then order the removal, discipline, or retirement, as it believes is proper, or completely reject the recommendation.
The Idaho Judicial Branch has a modern electronic online judicial system where citizens may find court records, obtain county contact details, or make payments. Interested persons may search for Idaho Magistrate Court case records on the iCourt portal. Provide either the record number or the name of either of the parties. For additional information on the records or for certified copies, contact the Office of the Clerk of the Court.
For the location and contact information of any Idaho Magistrate Court, check the Idaho County Courthouse Directory.