Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch sent a letter to the White House this week requesting a meeting on the Idaho federal district judge vacancy and saying it could “not do without a” mutual agreement “between them and to be occupied by the administration.
But the “blue slip” process that Republicans were referring to – a system that gave home state senators a veto of federal justice candidates – was thrown out during the Trump administration when federal judges were appointed against objection by Democratic senators.
“The blue-slip process of filling vacancies in the US District Court is alive and well,” the two senators wrote in a November 2 letter to Dana Remus, the president’s attorney, the Idaho Press reported.
Idaho’s top Democratic elected officials presented an all-female list of four nominees to the White House in March, but there has been no further word on the nomination since then. US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill was awarded senior status in August, making Idaho eligible for another federal judge.
The list of candidates that the Democratic officials sent to the White House in alphabetical order without ranking were: DeAnne Casperson, Idaho Falls attorney; Boise attorney Keely Duke; Boise attorney Deborah Ferguson; and former US attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson.
Idaho is one of only three states with only two U.S. district judges and has not had an additional judge’s office in 60 years, despite the number of cases increasing.
The Idaho Congressional delegation has long been pushing for the state to get an additional judge’s office, and all four members in Congress support laws that do just that, despite having made no headway. The impartial Justice Council of the United States has recommended a third judge’s office for Idaho since 2003.
Wyoming, with less than a third of the population of Idaho, has three district judges. So does Montana, with less than two-thirds of Idaho’s population.
Idaho is also one of only two states that has never had a female US district judge; the other is North Dakota.
Since President Joe Biden took office, it has been unclear how the Senate would deal with the “blue slip” rule.
Russell Wheeler, Brookings Institution Fellow, former assistant director of the Federal Judicial Center and expert on federal judge selection, said, “It’s not that the ‘blue slip’ is a binary choice, it is either enabled or it is the end. Rather, there are different levels. “
Wheeler said Biden has nominated dozens of district and district judges so far, but almost all of them have been in jurisdictions with either two Democratic senators or no senators, such as Puerto Rico and the federal district in the District of Columbia.
The only state that Biden has nominated a Republican senator to date is Ohio, which has a Republican and a Democrat in the Senate.
Ilana Rubel D-Boise, the Idaho House minority leader who was also among the Democratic officials who interviewed the White House and put forward candidates, said she met her White House contact person in person a few weeks ago to check for updates pushed.
“I haven’t gotten any more progress,” she said. “I’m definitely doing everything I can to make progress on this front because we certainly need a third judge here in Idaho District, but we certainly cannot afford to come back to one.”
Rubel was reluctant to hear the senators claim that the “blue panties” veto rule had returned.
“It would be one thing if that was consistently honored by both sides,” she said. “If it continued to be a bipartisan tradition, I would support it to keep it that way. However, the Trump administration decided to blow this up to gain an advantage in appointing judges while in control of the White House and Senate. “
Crapo’s spokeswoman Melanie Lawhorn said in an email: “We know there are some candidates, but we have no information on how long the process has been going or how the interviews went, and we cannot say whose turn it is this time. Part of the request for the meeting is to understand the schedule and current status of the White House. “
Crapo declined to comment on whether some or all of the Democratic candidates are acceptable to the GOP Senators.
“Senator Crapo is asking to meet with the White House to discuss and work to find an amicable candidate,” Lawhorn wrote. “He does not rush to comment on individuals prior to a formal nomination.”