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Race to the bench: Four campaign for district judge seat

TWIN FALLS — A district judge seat is open in Twin Falls County — and residents will get to choose who fills it.

Four candidates are facing off for the seat vacated by the death of longtime District Judge Randy Stoker: Twin Falls County Magistrate Judge Roger Harris, water adjudication hearing officer Theodore Booth, Twin Falls public defense attorney Samuel Beus, and private practice attorney David Gadd.

Typically, when a district judge seat opens up before the judge’s term is set to expire, the Judicial Council puts out a notice for applicants to fill the seat. Finalists selected by the council then undergo an interview process with the governor, who makes a final decision.

But the timing of Stoker’s death complicated things. Candidates interested in running in the election had to file between Feb. 26 and Mar. 9, and it was unlikely that the state would have appointed a replacement for Stoker by that point, the council explained at the time.

Because any appointment that the governor made would have been after candidates had already filed for the race — and because Stoker’s replacement would have been in office for such a short time before the election — the state decided not to appoint a district judge.

Instead, voters will determine who fills the seat in the May 15 primary election.

All four men vying for the position have extensive experience with the law, but each comes to the judicial race from a different perspective.

Here are the four candidates:

Roger B. Harris


Harris, a current magistrate judge in Twin Falls County, was first to declare his candidacy for district judge.

He has been a magistrate judge since 2005. Before that, he practiced both civil and criminal law in Twin Falls; during that time, he served as both the deputy prosecuting attorney and conflict public defender for the city of Twin Falls. He is a graduate of Idaho State University and earned his law degree at the University of Idaho in Moscow.

Harris sees his broad range of experience in both civil and criminal law as an important asset.

“Most lawyers specialize in one area of the law, or they try to,” he said. “As a judge, you have to be involved with and learn how to try and deal with every area of law because you see so many things on a daily basis.”

After 13 years as a magistrate judge, Harris says, he is already familiar with the challenges of serving on the bench, from the practical ins and outs of working in a courtroom to dealing with the range of personalities involved in civil litigation.

“I think that the experience I’ve had in doing that is invaluable as you go on to the next level,” Harris said.

Theodore Booth

Gretel Kauffman / COURTESY PHOTO 

Theodore Booth 

Booth has served as a water adjudication hearing officer since 2004, first in the Snake River Basin Adjudication and now in the Coeur d’Alene-Spokane River Basin Adjudication. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Utah and a law degree from the University of Utah College of Law.

Before working in water adjudication, Booth worked at Arkoosh Law Offices in Gooding and as a law clerk for Judge Barry Wood, who served as a district judge for Gooding and Jerome counties.

He views a district judgeship as a continuation, in a way, of his current work as a water adjudication hearing officer.

“There’s a lot of similarities in the work,” he said. “So in that sense, I see it as sort of a natural transition.”

As a water adjudicator, Booth said, he has learned how to manage complex litigation. Water adjudication officers frequently deal with legal questions that haven’t been addressed before, he said — something that he believes sets him apart from candidates who have worked primarily in criminal law.

“You kind of have to piece things together,” he said. “I’ve really become quite good at that.”

Samuel Beus



Beus, a public defense attorney for Twin Falls County, has worked for the public defender’s office for eight years. Before that, he worked in the private sector, specializing in insurance defense cases and other civil matters. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University, where he also earned his law degree.

As a public defender, Beus has worked closely with Twin Falls County’s specialty courts, which deal with defendants struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues. These courts are a priority for Beus.

“I want to make sure we have somebody at least in the mix for this position that would be well-equipped and has spent time in that environment, because it is unique,” Beus said.

Judges working in specialty courts tend to have a more personal relationship with defendants than judges in a regular courtroom, he explained.

“Normally, judges are trained to examine the law and the facts and put them together and look at what we do with legal issues, and that’s what any one of our candidates I’m sure could do well on a regular basis,” he continued. “But this is an area where judges have to stretch a little. And it’s an area that I’ve spent some time.”

David Gadd


David Gadd 

Gadd, a partner with Twin Falls firm Worst, Fitzgerald, & Stover, got his start in 2006 as a law clerk in Twin Falls, working for the Judge John C. Hohnhorst and, later, Judge Stoker. Since then, he’s worked primarily in civil litigation. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Brigham Young University and his law degree from the University of Idaho.

As a private attorney, Gadd focuses specifically on the kinds of civil litigation that come before the district court, such as land issues, employment law issues, and personal injury law.

In his line of work, he says, it’s important to him to have a district judge who’s familiar with civil law.

“Those are the types of legal issues that are going to be more complex, more complicated,” he said. “The district court sees a lot of felony criminal work as far as volume, but as far as the more complicated, complex legal issues, you’re going to see those on the civil side.

“I think that my experience will serve the attorneys and parties that file lawsuits here in the 5th district well, given that background,” he added.

These 13 Twin Falls Democrats will head to the convention in Boise

TWIN FALLS — A County Democrats meeting struck a hopeful tone Thursday evening as attendees chose delegates to the upcoming state convention and discussed the future of the party in Twin Falls.

Local Democrats gathered at Rock Creek restaurant selected thirteen of their own to attend the Idaho Democratic Party State Convention in June and heard from candidate Deborah Silver, who’s seeking the House B seat in District 24. She’ll run against either Linda Wright Hartgen or Rocky Ferrenburg, who are facing off in the Republican primary May 15.

Silver, who ran for the District 24 Senate seat in 2016, said she believes 2018 could be a more successful election year for Democrats in the region.

“If we can make this happen, this is the year,” Silver said.

She described campaign efforts in previous years, such as knocking on doors and making a database of voters, as a “long term investment” for Democrats.

“If we really want to make change in Twin Falls County, we have to accept that it’s not just going to turn, everybody’s not going to agree with us,” Silver said. “But if we do the work and we work smart, we have a chance.”

Silver was one of the thirteen Twin Falls delegates chosen to attend the convention in Caldwell on June 29 and 30, along with Adam Davis, Bayley Bingham, Linda Brugger, Perri Gardner, Alisha Stigall, Robyn Neal, Paul Melni, Jane Anderson, Paul Sturman, Linda Sturman, Candise Ramsey, and Leroy Hayes. Carole Stennett and Richard Parrott volunteered to serve as alternates.

At the convention, delegates from around the state will help shape the party’s platform and get to know Democratic candidates running for statewide office.

Bingham, one of the delegates chosen to represent Twin Falls County, said he was looking forward to discussing how conservative policies at the national level, such as harsher restrictions on immigration, affect rural areas like the Magic Valley.

“I think that we’re in a unique juncture in our country,” Bingham said. “We have the opportunity, especially in Twin Falls, to create a referendum in our community, in our state, and in our nation.”

If you do one thing:

If you do one thing: Canyon Ridge High School’s Synergy show choir presents “The Greatest Show” at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Canyon Ridge auditorium, 300 N. College Road W., Twin Falls. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, or $25 per family.


Canyon Ridge junior Andrea Villasenor tries to clear 4'6" in the girls high jump Friday during the Tim Dunne Invitational at Jerome High School in Jerome.

Explosions rock Syrian capital as Trump announces strikes

WASHINGTON — The United States, France and Britain launched military strikes in Syria to punish President Bashar Assad for a suspected chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again, President Donald Trump announced Friday. Explosions lit up the skies over Damascus, the Syrian capital, as Trump spoke from the White House.

Syrian television reported that Syria’s air defenses, which are substantial, have responded to the attack.

Trump said the U.S. is prepared to sustain pressure on Assad until he ends what the president called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons. It was not immediately clear whether Trump meant the allied military operation would extend beyond an initial nighttime round of missile strikes.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said in London that the West had tried “every possible” diplomatic means to stop Assad from using chemical weapons. “But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted” by Syria and Russia, she said.

“So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime,” May said. “This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change.”

Trump did not provide details on the joint U.S.-British-French attack, but it was expected to include barrages of cruise missiles launched from outside Syrian airspace. He described the main aim as establishing “a strong deterrent” against chemical weapons use. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied any use of banned weapons.

The decision to strike, after days of deliberations, marked Trump’s second order to attack Syria; he authorized a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit a single Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Assad’s use of sarin gas against civilians.

The air campaign could frustrate those in Trump’s base who oppose military intervention and are wary of open-ended conflicts.

Trump chastised Syria’s two main allies, Russia and Iran, for their roles in supporting “murderous dictators,” and noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had guaranteed a 2013 international agreement for Assad to get rid of all of his chemical weapons. He called on Moscow to change course and join the West in seeking a more responsible regime in Damascus.

“Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path, or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace,” Trump said. “Hopefully, someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran — but maybe not.”

The allied operation comes a year after the U.S. missile strike that Trump said was meant to deter Assad from further use of chemical weapons. Since that did not work, a more intense attack would aim to degrade his ability to carry out further such attacks, and would try to do this by hitting Syrian aircraft, military depots and chemical facilities, among other things.

The one-off missile strike in April 2017 targeted the airfield from which the Syrian aircraft had launched their gas attack. But the damage was limited, and a defiant Assad returned to episodic use of chlorine and perhaps other chemicals.

A broader question is whether the allied attacks are part of a revamped, coherent political strategy to end the war on terms that do not leave Assad in power.

Friday’s strikes appear to signal Trump’s willingness to draw the United States more deeply into the Syrian conflict. Just weeks ago, Trump said he wanted to end U.S. involvement in Syria and bring American troops home to focus on the homeland. The participation of British and French forces enables Trump to assert a wider international commitment against the use of chemical weapons, but the multi-pronged attack carries the risk of Russian retaliation.

In his nationwide address, Trump stressed that he has no interest in a longtime fight with Syria.

“America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances,” he said. “As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home.”

The U.S. has about 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria as advisers to a makeshift group of anti-Islamic State fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. They are in eastern Syria, far from Damascus. A U.S.-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes in Syria since September 2014 as part of a largely successful effort to break the IS grip on both Syria and Iraq.

Man who beat his friend with shovel and dumbbell sentenced to 15 years in prison

TWIN FALLS — An eastern Idaho man who beat a friend with a shovel and dumbbell weight in 2013 will serve at least five years behind bars.

James Marquez, formerly of Twin Falls, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for aggravated battery after a lengthy and emotional sentencing hearing Friday. Five of those years will be fixed, and the other 10 indeterminate.

Marquez pleaded guilty in November to aggravated battery for his role in an incident on Jan. 23, 2013, when he beat Michael Flynn with a dumbbell weight and shovel during a dispute at his then-home in Twin Falls. Flynn suffered severe internal injuries from the beating and was placed in a three-day medical coma as a result.

On the night of the incident, Twin Falls police responded to Marquez’s home on Arrow Wood Court, where they found Flynn wounded and covered in blood. Flynn told police that he and Marquez had gotten into a fight after Flynn tried to break up a domestic dispute between Marquez and Marquez’s wife.

Questioning and arguments at Friday’s sentencing hearing largely revolved around Marquez’s character and the nature of the dispute between Marquez and his wife.

She testified that the argument was just that, and that her husband was a “great man” who was not violent with her that night or any other night; another friend of the couple’s who was at the house that night previously told police that Marquez was “screaming” at his wife and “tossing her around.”

Prosecuting attorney Kiel Willmore requested the maximum sentence for the aggravated battery charge: 15 years fixed in prison. The defense asked Wilper to grant Marquez probation but impose a period of incarceration in the county jail; the suspended sentence would be 3 years fixed and 5 years indeterminate.

In a statement to the court, Marquez said he was “ready to move on” from the incident.

“I’m not a monster that people try to paint me out to be,” Marquez said. “I’m a loving husband and a great dad to my kids.”

In explaining his sentencing decision, Wilper said he had taken into consideration that “some aspects of [Marquez’s] character certainly are good.”

“I’m not sentencing Mr. Marquez as though he is a career criminal or irredeemably bad,” Wilper said.

However, he continued, “I think that a lesser sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the crime.”

Marquez was taken into custody immediately after the hearing.