One of the functions of a Bar Commissioner is to meet with the Bar Commissioners from other Bar organizations from throughout the United States. In this way, your Bar Commissioners can see how other states handle issues that come before other organizations and can anticipate issues or problems that may arise in Idaho.
The first thing you notice when meeting other state Commissioners is the Idaho State Bar’s great reputation. We can all be proud of the respect the Idaho State Bar has among the various state organizations. Credit for this respect goes largely to our Executive Director and the long time staff that has been assembled to serve the lawyers in the state of Idaho. Credit also goes to the Bar Commissioners elected over the years and their diligence in listening to the Idaho membership and their concerns.
This is perhaps the greatest strength of the Idaho State Bar Association. The Idaho State Bar Association is very transparent and provides the membership with a financial report each year so that every member of the Bar is aware of what money is coming in and where that money is being spent. In addition, and unlike many of the State Bar Associations in the United States, the Idaho State Bar sets its own dues. I was surprised at the number of states that simply allow their Bar Association to announce what Bar dues will be and to direct where that money is spent. Several states have experienced revolts among the lawyers in their states because of this practice. Washington recently severely cut its Bar Association. A lawyer legislator in Colorado recently proposed legislation making Bar membership voluntary because of a perceived lack of accountability.
One of the most important aspects of the Idaho State Bar, is that the lawyers in the state of Idaho control how the Commissioners of the Idaho State Bar conduct the Bar’s business. Each year the Commissioners go on the “Road Show” and meet with District Bar leaders and with the general membership. At these Bar meetings we discuss and vote on various issues that face the Bar. The Bar Commissioners propose resolutions to the membership but it is ultimately the membership that decides how to proceed. I don’t believe I would want to be a member of a Bar that preceded any other way or that did not have a “Road Show” to allow members and their Commissioners to interact, face-to-face.
With that said, two resolutions from the recent Road Show dealt with the Idaho Judiciary; Resolution No. 13-07 and Resolution No. 13-08. The first resolution dealt with judicial compensation and the second with increased funding for technology in our court system. The resolutions were necessary because your Bar Commissioners cannot take any stand before the legislature without a vote of the membership. These two resolutions passed the Bar by a percentage of 84% and 93%, respectively. With the authority of the members of the Idaho State Bar, the Commissioners have been able to approach the legislature, which is in session as I write this article, to let them know how the lawyers in Idaho feel about their judicial system and the respect they have for the Judges who are the backbone of that system. The resolutions read as follows:
13-07: Improve Judicial Recruitment by Addressing Inadequate Judicial
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the members of the Idaho State Bar endorse a Legislative solution to address judicial recruitment by increasing compensation for all members of the Idaho Judiciary and establishing a salary scheme which looks towards parity and equity with the salaries paid to judges, whether national, regional or the average salary of judges of the surrounding western states.
13-08: Support Transition to New Statewide Computerized Case Management
& E-Filing System
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the members of the Idaho State Bar endorse passage through the 2014 Idaho Legislature of the Idaho Supreme Court’s proposed legislation and budget enhancements necessary to secure the new software, equipment and services required to fulfill the Court’s technology vision.
It is important for the Commissioners and the practicing attorneys in the state of Idaho to remind our legislators and Governor that a well funded and respected judiciary is as important to economic development in this state as building a road, bridge or any other function of government. At any given time, tens of millions of dollars in client funds, not to mention the rights of the citizens of the state of Idaho, are on the line in our court system. It is also important to remember that while the legislature meets for two or three months each year and the executive deals with day-to-day aspects of running the state, the citizens usually have the most contact with our legal system. Whether it is in the area of criminal law or civil disputes, it is the legal community and the legal system that attempts to resolve these issues on a daily basis. Without the stability of the legal system by placing on the bench our most seasoned and qualified candidates, the cost both in economic and personal terms, can be great. The same holds true for the increased productivity that benefits Idaho’s future with the use of technology. The time and cost to clients saved by upgrading technology in our court system cannot be emphasized enough.
The real emphasis of this President’s Message is to urge individual members of the Bar to contact their legislators now, as they are in session, and express to them your personal belief that the resolutions passed by the Bar should be acted upon this year. That is, the legislature must address the compensation package for our judges and increase funding for the court system to implement technology changes to benefit the state’s economic development and reduce the cost of legal services in the state of Idaho. If you will go to the website http://www.legislature.idaho.gov it will give you the name of your representatives and senators so you may send an e-mail or better yet, contact them by phone, to express your support and the support of the Bar for these two resolutions.
Specific legislation will soon be proposed.
On behalf of the Commissioners of the Idaho State Bar, and your fellow lawyers, I thank you in advance for becoming involved.
About the Author
Robert T. Wetherell is a 1982 graduate of the University of Idaho Law School and clerked for the United States District Court for the District of Idaho immediately upon his graduation. Since that time he has been in private practice in the city of Boise and is currently a Principle and Partner at Capitol Law Group, 205 N. 10th St., 4th Floor, P.O. Box 2598, Boise, Idaho 83701-2598. Mr. Wetherell began serving as Bar President in January of 2014. He has been married to his wife, Deborah, for 29 years and they have two adult children; Marie Ellen, a third year law student at the University of Idaho College of Law and R. John, a senior at the University of Idaho. GO VANDALS!