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How Does the Idaho Supreme Court Work?

The Idaho Supreme Court is the State’s apex court and has two kinds of jurisdiction: original and appellate. The court has original jurisdiction to issue writs of mandamus, habeas corpus, prohibition, certiorari, and all writs proper or necessary to the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction. The Idaho Supreme Court also has appellate jurisdiction to review all cases it receives from the district courts’ final judgments.

It may review the Public Utility Commission’s orders, plans proposed by the commission for reapportionment, and orders of the industrial accident board. However, for appeals from any order of the industrial accident board, the Supreme Court is limited to a review of only questions of law.

The original jurisdiction of the Idaho Supreme Court extends it to have the power to hear claims against the State. However, the court’s decision on such matters is merely recommendatory.

The court also has the power to affirm, reverse, or modify any judgment or order appealed. It may direct that the proper judgment or order be entered, or that further proceedings or a new trial be held. The decisions of the Idaho Supreme Court must be remitted to the lower court from which the appeal was taken. The court gives its judgments in writing. When giving a decision, the court determines all the questions of law involved in the presented case, and that is necessary for the final determination of the matter.

For the Idaho Supreme Court to transact business, three justices must be present, but one justice can adjourn the court from day to day as though all the justices were present. Also, three of the Supreme Court justices must concur before pronouncing judgment. If this does not happen, the case must be reheard.

The court or any of its three justices may fix the times for holding the terms of the court. However, the Supreme Court can not change it more than once each year. If there is a pandemic, pestilence, or the courthouse is destroyed, the Idaho Supreme Court justices may hold terms of court at other convenient places as fixed by the majority of the justices.

The Idaho Supreme Court has the power to appoint a crier, bailiff, and messenger when necessary. When the court appoints these officers, the court fixes the duties and compensation of the officers. The court also has the authority to make rules that govern the procedure in all other courts within the State.

Therefore, the Idaho Supreme Court prescribes all the courts, the forms of processes, pleadings, writs, and motions. It also stipulates the time of appearance, manner of service, and the procedure and practice in all cases and proceedings. However, the rules of the court can not enlarge, abridge, or modify a litigant’s substantive rights.

The Idaho Supreme Court comprises five justices, most of which are essential to pronounce a decision or form a quorum. All the Supreme Court justices are elected by the State of Idaho’s electors and serve a term of six years. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is selected from among the justices by a majority of the justices. Note, the Chief Justice is the executive head of the State’s judicial system. The term of office for the Chief Justice is four years.

The justices of the Supreme Court are prohibited from assuming any other office of profit or trust while serving. The Justices may not act as counsels or attorneys in any court, except in proceedings or actions where the justice is a party on the record. In addition to this, the Idaho Supreme Court justices cannot have a partner acting as counsel or attorney in any court of the State. An Idaho Supreme Court Justice may be removed or disciplined for any of the following actions:

  • Willful misconduct in office
  • Deliberate and persistent failure to carry out the duties of the office
  • Habitual intemperance
  • Actions that are prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings disrepute to the judicial office

A justice may also be retired if the justice has a disability that seriously interferes with the performance of official duties or that is likely to become permanent. The State of Idaho has a judicial council in charge of retiring, removing, and disciplining judges. Before this, the council may decide to conduct a hearing concerning the removal, retirement, or discipline of a justice.

Otherwise, it may request the Supreme Court to appoint three special masters, who are justices or judges, to hear and take evidence in any such issues, and to report the findings to the judicial council. If the council believes that there is good reason, it recommends the discipline, retirement, or removal of the Supreme Court Justice.

On receiving such a recommendation, the Idaho Supreme Court reviews the record of the proceedings on the facts and law. It may then choose to introduce further evidence and may order the removal, discipline, or retirement, or completely reject the recommendation. If the justice is retired, the justice is entitled to the same rights and privileges of retirement. On the other hand, if the justice is removed from office, the justice’s salary ceases from the moment the order is given.

The Idaho Supreme Court may appoint, at any time, one or more judges to act as commissioners of the Supreme Court. These judges must be duly elected, acting and qualified District judges of the State, and may be selected from any of the counties or districts. The court designates the term of office and may change the personnel of the commission from time to time as may be necessary.

However, the members of the commission can not serve as commissioners for a longer period that is beyond the term of office as a district judge. These commissioners have to assist the Idaho Supreme Court in performing its duties and the disposition of the pending and undetermined court cases.

The commissioners do not receive any emolument or salary other than the regular salary for judges. However, the commissioners are entitled to be paid for all expenses incurred while performing the duties. Note, the Idaho Supreme Court has the power to replace or remove any or all of the commissioners at any time, temporarily or permanently. The Supreme Court also fills any vacancies arising from such removal or replacement.

The Supreme Court also appoints a clerk that holds office at the court’s pleasure. The person appointed must not practice as a counselor or attorney, or be surety for bail in any Supreme Court case. The Clerk of the Court is responsible for demanding, charging, and collecting fees for services rendered in discharging the duties of the office. The Idaho Supreme Court clerk also administers oaths and takes acknowledgments of deeds and instruments of writing under the office’s seal.

The Idaho Supreme Court has a modern electronic online judicial system where citizens may search for Idaho Supreme court records, obtain county contact information, or make payments. Interested persons may also contact the Clerk of the Court for Idaho Supreme Court case records. To contact the Office of the Clerk, call (208) 334–2210, visit or send a mail to:

The Idaho Supreme Court

451 W. State Street

Boise, ID 83702

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