Criminal justice reform, keeping up with the needs of an aging population and creating more judgeships to keep up with population growth are among the issues the Idaho judiciary is facing.
Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Burdick was at the Capitol Wednesday morning, delivering his yearly "State of the Judiciary" address to the House and Senate. He also introduced them to the Supreme Court's newest judges, including Greg Moeller, who was a district judge in Rexburg before being named to the Supreme Court late last year.
Burdick praised lawmakers for their Justice Reinvestment Initiative and their work to improve the state's public defense system, noting that the Idaho Supreme Court ruled in 1923, 40 years before the U.S. Supreme Court mandated it nationally, that poor defendants were entitled to a lawyer at public expense. He also encouraged lawmakers to focus on rehabilitative programs for criminals.
"We must all remember 90 percent or more of these individuals will come back to our neighborhoods," Burdick said. "Our judges have always felt more support is needed in terms of probation officers, rehabilitation services and halfway houses so that defendants have a better chance at normalization before they are released by the courts or the Department of Corrections. We continue to support efforts for more local placement and resources."
Burdick said the state will need more judges in Ada County to deal with population growth. He said the state is facing a "silver tsunami" with its aging population, which means a greater need for improving court monitoring to protect the rights of dementia patients.
"In the future the courts face a daunting task of finding future guardians or conservators for increasing numbers of individuals left with no one else to step in to help," Burdick said. "These are challenges we will undoubtedly seek your counsel (on) in the future."
Burdick briefly updated lawmakers on the rollout of Odyssey, the new court records management system that has been extended to counties in groups over the past couple of years and was recently expanded to eastern Idaho. He also told them about a new statewide jury management system, which will help counties that opt in handle jury management and send people texts to update and notify them when they need to appear for jury duty.