TWIN FALLS — Longtime District Judge Randy Stoker succumbed to a years-long battle with cancer earlier this week, ending a 15-year era in the Twin Falls courthouse.
Now, the state will begin what’s likely to be a months-long process to fill the vacancy left by his death.
District judges are ultimately selected by the governor — but those appointments don’t just come out of thin air. The new judge will be chosen from a short list of recommended candidates, provided by the Idaho Judicial Council.
To come up with that short list, the Judicial Council puts out an announcement asking for District Judge applications. The council then interviews the applicants, and, after seeking comment from the public and the state’s bar association, submits between two and four finalists for the governor’s consideration.
From there, the governor himself interviews the candidates and makes a final decision.
The Idaho Judicial Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the projected timeline for finding a replacement. As of Thursday afternoon, a recruitment notice for the position had not yet been posted on the Judicial Council’s website.
The process can take several months from start to finish, said Diane Minnich, executive director of Idaho State Bar. The timing depends on several factors, including the length of the initial application and interview process, how busy the governor is at the time, and any adjustments that the appointee may need to make in his or her personal or professional life.
However, Minnich speculated, given the circumstances of the vacancy, and the suddenness of Stoker’s death, “they’ll probably speed it up as much as they can.”
Shelli Tubbs, trial court administrator for the fifth judicial district, said that while she isn’t aware of any definitive dates, she anticipates that the recruitment process will begin “fairly soon.”
In the meantime, the district will continue to rely on both current and retired district judges to cover Stoker’s duties.
“It’s always sad when you lose somebody that young,” Minnich said. “He was very committed to service, both as a lawyer and as a judge.”