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Other View: There is no principled reason to vote against Gorsuch

As a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and progressive causes, I understand the anger at the Republicans’ mistreatment of Judge Merrick Garland after he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama. Partisan advantage reigned over fairness of process, and an exceptionally fine jurist was treated shabbily.

But as Judge Neil Gorsuch — President Donald Trump’s choice for the court seat that Garland would have filled — approaches his confirmation hearings, I fear that the lingering resentments of the past year will cloak a fair consideration of him as a nominee. Gorsuch — my former law partner and longtime friend — is brilliant, diligent, open-minded and thoughtful. He was the only Supreme Court candidate considered by this administration that I could support. The Senate should confirm him because there is no principled reason to vote no.

As a private-sector attorney, Gorsuch could have practiced with any large corporate law firm in the United States, but he instead chose a small firm in its very early days — a riskier path, to be sure. Over the course of his career, he has represented both plaintiffs and defendants. He has defended large corporations, but also sued them. He has advocated for the Chamber of Commerce, but also filed (and prevailed with) class actions on behalf of consumers. We should applaud such independence of mind and spirit in Supreme Court nominees.

As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, Gorsuch has not been the reflexive, hard-edged conservative that many depict him to be. He has ruled for plaintiffs and for defendants; for those accused of crimes as well as for law enforcement; for those who entered the country illegally; and for those harmed by environmental damage.

Anyone who sees Gorsuch as automatically pro-corporation should talk to the officers at Rockwell International and Dow Chemical, against whom he reinstated a $920 million jury verdict for environmental contamination at the Rocky Flats nuclear facility. Executives at U.S. Tobacco Company might also be wringing their hands at the moment, given that Gorsuch, as an attorney, helped to attain one of the largest antitrust verdicts in history against the company.

Gorsuch’s approach to resolving legal problems as a lawyer and a judge embodies a reverence for our country’s values and legal system. The facts developed in a case matter to him; the legal rules established by legislatures and through precedent deserve deep respect; and the importance of treating litigants, counsel and colleagues with civility is deeply ingrained in him.

Some years ago, he called me about a case he had reviewed on the 10th Circuit’s motions docket involving an Arab Muslim incarcerated in a state prison. The guards allegedly called the inmate “9/11” and mistreated him during his confinement. The district court had rejected the inmate’s claim that his constitutional rights had been violated and dismissed his lawsuit.

Over the phone, though, Gorsuch explained that he thought the plaintiff prisoner might have a valid claim, but couldn’t tell for sure. He asked our law firm to represent the inmate, which I agreed to do so long as a younger colleague could be the principal lawyer on the case and argue under my supervision.

Gorsuch agreed and then recused himself from the case to avoid an appearance of conflict. My associate, Janie Nitze, later won a reversal by the 10th Circuit, which reinstated the prisoner’s claims. That man got his day in court because of Gorsuch’s conscientious approach to judging.

I have no doubt that I will disagree with some decisions that Gorsuch might render as a Supreme Court justice. Yet, my hope is to have justices on the bench such as Gorsuch and Garland who approach cases with fairness and intellectual rigor, and who care about precedent and the limits of their roles as judges. The Supreme Court’s work is complex and varied, and we need those qualities of mind and judicial temperament for all cases.

Letter: Know your highways

Know your highways

Idaho has a different road system than other states. Highway districts maintain “county roads.” This system was adopted in the early 1900s under Idaho Code Title 40 Chapter 2. Highway districts are not funded nor overseen by the counties. Each district is administered by a board of commissioners which is elected by the residents of the district. This happens in the May election of odd numbered years. Funding comes from property taxes, fuel taxes and registration fees. Federal funding comes by grant application for specific projects. There are four highway districts in Twin Falls County: Murtaugh, Twin Falls, Filer and Buhl. Their boundaries don’t follow school district or post office borders. Highway rights-of-way on the section lines were established by the Carey Act in 1894. The developer of a new subdivision petitions the board of commissioners to adopt the road(s) into their road system. If the road doesn’t meet standards, it remains a private road. It would be prudent for anyone purchasing a home to be aware of who owns the roads within the subdivision. If it has not been adopted into the road system, it is the homeowners’ responsibility for snow removal and pot holes. Highway districts struggle with funding, prices, manpower and urbanization. Snow removal and pavement life are becoming bigger challenges as irrigation practices, size/weight of trucks and equipment, homes and public expectations continue to change our landscape. Everything revolves around the weather. This is a general description of how the Idaho road system works. If you have any questions, please call your local highway district office or attend a Board meeting. The county cannot help you. Any highway district office should be able to tell you which district you live in, but cannot give you specific information regarding roads or operating practices within another district.

Myra Miller, clerk

Filer Highway District

Idaho View: Election puts candidates on a roller coaster ride

This appeared in the Lewiston Tribune:

Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist has guaranteed a pleasure cruise for the state’s political junkies — and a roller coaster ride for its politicians.

Ahlquist last week became the third Republican to seek his party’s nomination for governor. He followed Lt. Gov. Brad Little and former state Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian. Many expect Congressman Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, to make it a foursome.

This is a rarity in Idaho. To have a jungle primary for governor — in the vernacular of the political class — where you have the real element of surprise, you have to go all the way back to 1978.

With Democratic Gov. John Evans perceived as vulnerable, Republicans crawled all over each other for the chance to take him on.

The GOP primary field included former legislator and party leader Vernon Ravenscroft, Rep. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Idaho House Speaker Allen Larsen, legislative budget committee Co-Chairman — and former Major League Baseball player — Larry Jackson, former Boise Mayor Jay Amyx and Coeur d’Alene businessman Jim Crowe — who political historian Randy Stapilus described in his 1988 “Paradox Politics” as a “political neophyte who came across with ease and confidence, a before-the-fact Donald Trump.”

Ravenscroft was so certain of victory his advisers told him to take time off from campaigning to polish his acceptance speech. But Larsen racked up huge totals among his fellow Mormons in Bonneville, Bingham, Bannock and Madison counties, enabling him to win a statewide upset with 29 percent.

Larsen went on to lose to Evans that November.

Much the same thing happened in 2006, when Otter vacated his 1st Congressional District seat to run for governor. Among the Republicans seeking to succeed him were state Controller Keith Johnson, former Senate State Affairs Chairwoman Sheila Sorensen, then-state Rep. Skip Brandt, irrigation lobbyist Norm Semanko, Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez and then-Rep. Bill Sali.

On this much, you could bet: Sali had no chance at all. He had managed to alienate just about everyone in the Legislature. While he was serving as House speaker, Congressman Mike Simpson had famously threatened to throw Sali out the window of his third-floor Capitol office. Enraged at Sali’s unchivalrous treatment of former Democratic leader Wendy Jaquet, Speaker Bruce Newcomb blurted out to a couple of reporters: “That idiot is just an absolute idiot. ... He doesn’t have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body. And you can put that in the paper.”

If religion was the “x” factor in Larsen’s win, a low voter turnout worked to Sali’s advantage. All he needed was the conservative base and he got it — eking out a victory with a mere 25.8 percent. Sali went on to serve a single term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2014, nobody gave Sherri Ybarra much of a chance in the four-way GOP race for state schools superintendent. Compared to American Falls Principal Randy Jensen, Melba Superintendent Andy Grover and Cottonwood educator John Eynon, she had little exposure and even less money.

The fact that Ybarra was the only woman in the race is credited with helping her win the GOP primary with 28.7 percent.

And until last summer, Robyn Brody was an obscure Rupert attorney. But the enduring absence of a woman on Idaho’s Supreme Court gave her an advantage in the 2016 judicial election over more established candidates such as Senate State Affairs Committee Chairman Curt McKenzie, Court of Appeals Judge Sergio Gutierrez and Deputy Attorney General Clive Strong.

So here’s how you compile uncertainty upon uncertainty in next year’s Idaho gubernatorial contest:

Get a fifth or even sixth major league Idaho Republican to enter the race and slice the electorate into thinner and thinner slices.

Allow the closed GOP primary to continue to depress voter turnout.

And for the third consecutive election, encourage a relatively unknown female candidate to emerge.

For the candidates, this could be a stomach-churning season.

Rolaids, anyone?