Seven weeks after he was taken by air ambulance to Salt Lake City, Idaho Supreme Court Justice Warren Jones plans to return to Boise on July 25. But when he'll resume his place on the five-member court is unclear.
"No date has been set yet to return to work," Administrative Director of the Courts Patti Tobias said on Tuesday. "We all expect a full recovery and we expect him back on the court."
Jones, 70, was stricken ill June 6, just as the court was to hear oral arguments in Twin Falls. He's been treated in the University of Utah Hospital system for an unspecified illness. His family "has not given us all the details" of his diagnosis, Tobias said. "There was a medical incident."
Jones, appointed by Gov. Butch Otter in 2007, was elected in 2008 and re-elected in May to a six-year term ending in 2020.
In his absence, former Justice Jesse Walters is catching up on Jones' caseload and has submitted one draft opinion to colleagues. Walters spent five years as a district judge, 15 years on the Idaho Court of Appeals and six years on the Idaho Supreme Court before retiring in 2003.
The Legislature authorizes senior judges to serve as "pro tem" (meaning for the time being, in Latin) jurists at all three levels, often when a judge has a conflict of interest. Former Justices Wayne Kidwell, Gerald Schroeder and Linda Copple Trout also take occasional assignments on the high court.
Walters is currently assigned 20 cases in place of Jones, including five argued in Twin Falls in Jones' absence. One case was submitted without oral argument, two are scheduled for argument July 29 and a dozen will be heard in August.
Walters has listened to audio recordings and read briefs in the cases argued in Twin Falls.
"The only thing that might be lacking would be an opportunity to ask questions," Walters told the Statesman on Tuesday. "There was nothing that jumped out at me that made me feel I needed to be present. I don't think the attorneys would have presented their arguments any differently if I was there."
Walters, particularly active as a pro tem judge on the Idaho Court of Appeals, said he told Chief Justice Roger Burdick that he won't hear any cases on appeal from that court.
That means Kidwell is sitting on a sixth Supreme Court case argued in Twin Falls last month and is assigned to write the opinion. Kidwell is also handling two appeals reviews scheduled for argument in August. Before Jones fell ill, Schroeder was assigned to one case in which Jones had recused himself.
Walters, 70, said he and his wife traveled to Norway in May and didn't have any big summer plans - other than to visit their 8-month-old great-grandchild in California. He said he's been working mostly from home and going to the court roughly six hours a day, three days a week.
"It wasn't what we were planning to do this summer, but I'm available to help out," Walters said. If necessary, he said, "I'm prepared to fill in for the rest of the year."
The court has 10 oral arguments scheduled in September but none in October.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics