While district judges have jurisdiction to hear any type of case that is authorized to be filed in the District Court, their calendars are almost entirely made up of cases involving the most serious criminal cases (felonies) and civil cases in which the amount of money in dispute exceeds $10,000. Contractual disputes, medical malpractice, and personal injury cases arising from automobile accidents are common types of civil cases that district judges decide. District judges also hear appeals from decisions made by magistrate judges.
The number of judges to serve in each of the seven judicial districts and their salaries are determined by the Idaho legislature. Currently there are 45 district judges serving the state of Idaho, 11 of whom are in the Fourth Judicial District. Additionally, a judge who leaves office or retires may be designated as a senior judge by the Idaho Supreme Court and may be assigned to hear cases in any of the seven judicial districts.
To be qualified as a district judge in Idaho, an individual must be 30 years of age, a United States citizen, admitted to practice law for at least ten years, admitted to practice law in the state of Idaho, and must have resided within the judicial district for one year preceding his or her election.
Idaho district judges are either appointed by the Governor to fill a newly created position as approved by the Idaho Legislature or to fill an unexpired term of office (midterm vacancy of a previously filled position), or they are elected to a 4-year term of office by the voters of the judicial district in which they will serve. Whether appointed or elected, each district judge intending to retain that position for an additional term must stand for general election for district judges held during certain primary elections. The term of office begins on the first Monday of January following the election.
When the legislature approves a new district judge position or when an existing district judge position becomes vacant midterm, the Idaho Judicial Council submits to the Governor a list of not less than two nor more than four names of those applicants who are determined to be the best qualified. From this list of nominees, the Governor appoints one of them to fill the district judge position.
Administrative District Judge
One district judge from each district is elected by the other district judges to serve as the administrative judge for his or her district. In addition to handling a judicial calendar, the administrative district judge works with the district’s trial court administrator in managing court operations in the district, assigning judges to cases, managing local court budgets and facilities, setting policies, addressing local court-related issues, and coordinating activities of the clerks of the district court. The administrative judge also serves as chair of the District Magistrates Commission which, among other things, appoints magistrate judges to their initial terms of office. In the Fourth Judicial District, the administrative district judge is elected to serve a three-year term. The current administrative judge for the Fourth District is the Honorable Timothy Hansen.