Magistrate Judges

Ada County Republicans – we have been getting many questions on the Magistrate Judges you see on your ballots.  On the ballots in Ada County there are 14 Magistrate Judges in the County Retention Election.


Here’s the Bottom Line:

1: Since there is little public information on Magistrate Judges, we have no basis/evidence upon which to evaluate a “YES to Retain in Office” or “NO Not to Retain in Office”.

2:  Magistrate judges specialize in civil actions (less than $10,000), small claims court (less than $4,000), traffic cases, probate, juvenile correction proceedings, child protective proceedings, misdemeanors, warrants, preliminary hearings for probable cause on felony cases and domestic relations issues.

3:  We did look into previous Ada County Retention Elections and discovered that the Ada County Magistrate Judges on the ballot in 2020 averaged 79% “YES – Retain in Office Votes” in 2012 and 2016.

A Quick Primer on Magistrate Judges

Idaho’s Magistrate Court Structure

  • There are seven Judicial Districts in Idaho.
  • District 4 comprises Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley Counties.
  • The Idaho Court is a unified court system (all state courts are administered and supervised by the Idaho Supreme Court) divided into four integrated pieces:  The Idaho Supreme Court, The Idaho Court of Appeals, The Idaho District Courts and the Idaho Magistrate Divisions.

Magistrate Division Duties

  • The Magistrate Division handles:
    • (1) Civil actions – personal injury – property disputes – contracts – of less than $10,000.
    • (2) Small Claims – The “People’s Court” with less than $4,000 in question.
    • (3) Traffic Cases
    • (4) Probate of Decedent Estates (Wills)
    • (5) Juvenile Correction Proceedings
    • (6) Child Protective Proceedings (abuse; neglect; abandonment; homeless; parents not create a stable home); adoption; guardianship of minor
    • (7) Misdemeanors
    • (8) Arrest Warrants; Searches and Seizures (Search Warrants)
    • (9) Preliminary Hearings for Probable Cause on Felony Complaints
    • (10) Domestic Relations (Divorce, Alimony, Child Support, Child Custody).
  • “The greatest number of cases handled by magistrate judges are misdemeanor and infraction cases. Infraction cases constitute the largest share of the total trial court caseload. Infraction and misdemeanor cases come to the court system most frequently in the form of a traffic citation or “ticket” issued by law enforcement to the defendant.”  (Overview of Idaho Court System; page 6)

Magistrate Judges

  • There are a total of 19 Magistrate Judges in District 4
  • Magistrate Judges serve 18 months after being appointed by the district magistrates commission and then serve subsequent four-year terms by county retention elections.
  • The Idaho Judicial Council is the regulatory body for Idaho’s Magistrate Judges.  In general, there is very little public information available, that we know of, on Magistrate Judges.

2020 Ballots and Past History

  • There are 14 Magistrate Judge candidates on all ballots in Ada County.
  • Of the 14, 11 were also on the ballot in 2016 and 7 were also on the ballot in 2012.
  • In 2012 and 2016, all of the Magistrate Judges on the ballot were easily “Retained in Office”.  The average margin was 79% to “Retain in Office” and 21% “Not to Retain in Office.”