Idaho governor vetoes judicial council bill

Rep. Greg Chaney, who co-sponsored bill, says he doesn’t support trying to override veto

By: - March 30, 2022 2:17 pm
Gov. Brad Little

Gov. Brad Little walks down the stairs of the Idaho State Capitol after delivering the annual State of the State address on Jan. 10, 2022. (Brian Myrick/Idaho Press)

Gov. Brad Little issued a veto letter for House Bill 782 on Wednesday afternoon, a bill that would make sweeping changes to the Idaho Judicial Council and give the governor more authority over the judicial appointment process.

“I agree with the legislative sponsors of this bill that there is a need to modernize the Judicial Council,” Little wrote in his veto letter. “There were components of HB782 I supported, but I think it is in Idaho’s best interest to spend more time properly vetting these changes with all relevant stakeholders. Our starting point must be filtered through the lens of what will help us recruit and retain top quality judges for Idaho.”



The Idaho Legislature is scheduled to reconvene on Thursday and could attempt to override Little’s veto. The bill passed the Senate with a veto-proof majority, but was two votes shy of the threshold needed in the House.

Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, co-sponsored the bill on the House floor and debated strongly for its passage. However, he wrote a letter to Speaker of the House Scott Bedke on Wednesday saying he doesn’t think the Legislature should try to override the veto.

“I think we did good work, but when you have something that is such a matter of the balance between the three branches of government and you’re the only branch insisting on something, I think it’s important to slow down,” Chaney told the Idaho Capital Sun. “With the governor’s veto and his justification, I think standing alone on changes like this puts the Legislature in an awkward place.”

In the letter, Chaney encouraged Bedke and Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder to nominate individuals for the special committee the Idaho Supreme Court announced in early March to examine issues around the judicial recruitment process and the Idaho Judicial Council. Members of the public and attorneys can also apply to be part of the committee. Applications are due April 8.

Chaney said he hadn’t received a response to the letter by Wednesday evening.

2022-03-30 Regarding Changes to the Judicial Council


The bill quickly passed the House and Senate in the waning weeks of the legislative session, with a push from legislative leaders to pass it, including from Senate Assistant Majority Leader Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, who sponsored the bill. 

The bill would expand the judicial council from seven to 11 members, including one district judge, one magistrate judge and four members of the Idaho State Bar. Instead of appointments from the Idaho State Bar, the Idaho Supreme Court would nominate members for appointment by the governor, with consent from the Idaho Senate — which requires a vote by the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, and then a full vote in the Senate. Non-attorney members would be selected the same way.

It also prescribes the areas of law each attorney on the council would predominantly practice, including civil litigation and criminal prosecution.

Lee and other proponents of the bill said the changes would add transparency to the process because comments and feedback around nominees would become matters of public record. Opponents of the bill said the changes were unnecessary when Idaho already has a process that produces high-quality nominees. Attorneys and former judges from across Idaho expressed concerns during bill hearings about making comments and feedback public, saying it could have a chilling effect on honest feedback about potential appointments, especially among attorneys whose future cases may end up in front of a nominee.


Little said during his time as governor and previously as lieutenant governor, he participated in the appointments of dozens of district judges and appellate court justices and saw firsthand that Idaho judges “value our way of life and endeavor to interpret Idaho law consistent with its plain meaning.”

“My office stands ready to support future effort to modernize and improve the process by which Idaho fills judicial vacancies,” the letter said. “I encourage my friends in the judicial and legislative branches to collaborate and identify areas of compromise that will increase transparency, preserve impartiality and improve judicial recruitment.”

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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.