Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Jones announced Wednesday that he won’t run for re-election to a third six-year term on the Idaho Supreme Court, and Clive Strong, longtime chief of the Natural Resources Division for the Idaho Attorney General’s office, announced that he’ll run for the court seat.
Jones, who served two terms as Idaho Attorney General before being elected to the high court in 2004, said he initially was torn about whether or not to seek re-election — and decided he wouldn’t run if “one or more credible, qualified candidates steps forward.” Jones, 73, defined that as “persons who have been recognized for legal excellence by a bar association, or who have had their name submitted to the governor by the Judicial Council for a position on Idaho’s appellate courts, or who have otherwise distinguished themselves in the Idaho legal community.”
Jones, while noting that as the chief justice he can’t endorse a candidate, said, “Clive is certainly qualified.”
Strong has been with the Attorney General’s office for 33 years. He was the lead attorney for the state in the Snake River Basin Adjudication, a 27-year legal case that decreed more than 158,000 water rights. He’s argued two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous cases before the Idaho Supreme Court. And he was recommended by the Judicial Council for an appellate court seat several years ago.
Strong also was recognized by the American Bar Association in 2014 as its environment, energy and resources government attorney of the year; it’s among an array of awards and recognitions he’s amassed in his legal career.
Launching his campaign Wednesday, Strong said, “As a native Idahoan who has lived and worked throughout the state, I have the background and breadth of experience required to be an effective Supreme Court justice.”
Already, Strong has lined up endorsements from an array of supporters, ranging from House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, to former Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus, to former GOP Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.
The deadline to file for the court position — and for all offices up in the May 17 election, including every seat in the state Legislature — is this Friday.
Jones said he’s in “good shape” and said, “If nobody had stepped forward I would have run for re-election, and served the full six years. I think I’m physically and mentally capable of doing that. … But since my criteria were met, I think, well, there are a lot of other things I can do.”
Among them: “I’m thinking about getting into writing. I’ve got several books in my head.”
An Idaho native, Jones is a decorated Vietnam veteran, served as an aide to then-Sen. Len B. Jordan for three years, and worked as a lawyer in private practice in Jerome and in Boise. He said highlights of his service on the state’s highest court have been “the cases that are meaningful, that are argued well by the attorneys, and I can think of several of them — the Syringa case, most of the water cases. We’ve got one that’s probably going to come out in the latter part of this month that was, I think, really meaningful and it should be a good case. And we’ve had a number of criminal cases that forged new ground. … So it’s been really interesting.”
Strong also is an Idaho native, born and raised in the Magic Valley. A graduate of Wendell High School, he holds both bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Idaho and a Master of Laws degree from the University of Michigan.