Elections

Brody, McKenzie headed for Supreme Court runoff

Idaho Supreme Court candidate Robyn Brody talks about the runoff

Robyn Brody, a Twin Falls attorney, and Curt McKenzie, a Republican legislator, will compete this fall in a runoff election to determine who will succeed Jim Jones on the Idaho Supreme Court. Here, Brody talks about advancing to the runoff.
Up Next
Robyn Brody, a Twin Falls attorney, and Curt McKenzie, a Republican legislator, will compete this fall in a runoff election to determine who will succeed Jim Jones on the Idaho Supreme Court. Here, Brody talks about advancing to the runoff.

Robyn Brody, a Twin Falls attorney, and Curt McKenzie, a Republican legislator, will compete this fall in a runoff election to determine who will succeed Jim Jones on the Idaho Supreme Court.

That was in spite of results in Ada County, where Court of Appeals Judge Sergio Gutierrez was the clear favorite. State results showed him in third place; Deputy Attorney General Clive Strong came in fourth, less than 1 percent of the vote behind Gutierrez.

The runoff was triggered because no one of the four candidates secured more than 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary. That means the top two candidates advance to the November ballot.

Brody, 46, received the highest — tied with Gutierrez — marks from fellow attorneys in Idaho who responded to an Idaho Bar Association survey. Respondents especially liked her knowledge and understanding of the law, as well as her integrity and independence.

Brody also held the distinction for raising the most campaign money. As of May 1, she reported contributions of more than $176,000. By comparison, Gutierrez raised less than $13,000.

Efforts to contact Brody and McKenzie on Tuesday night were unsuccessful.

McKenzie, 47, is a state representative of Idaho’s 13th legislative district, located in Canyon County. He also operates his own law firm. He is an outspoken advocate for gun rights and backed a bill last year that, if it had passed, would have legalized the use of cannabidiol for the treatment of epilepsy.

Of the four candidates, only Gutierrez has judicial experience, having served 23 years as a District Court and appellate judge. That apparently meant little to Idaho voters.

Strong is a veteran of the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. He spent 27 years working on the Snake River Basin Adjudication, which with more than 158,000 water rights settled, was the largest case in state history.

Candidate Q&A

Earlier in May, the four Idaho Supreme Court candidates answered several questions from the Statesman as part of a preview of the race. Here are Brody and McKenzie’s comments from that May 7 article:

Curt McKenzie

Why do you want to serve on the Idaho Supreme Court?

When I was in law school, it was right by Capitol Hill, so we could go over there (to the U.S. Supreme Court). I was very intrigued by the court, but I never thought I’d have a chance to serve there.

I planned to serve no more than one more term in the state Senate. With the retirement of Justice Jones, it’s so rare that we have an open seat and a contested race without an incumbent. I thought this was the time if I was going to make it happen, so I filed and here I am.

If you were elected, what would be your judicial philosophy?

It would be applying the Constitution and constitutional statutes as they’re written, not trying to impose a personal philosophy to them. I think we have to be careful about looking beyond the text to find legislative intent. In Idaho, you have very limited committee minutes. The committee minutes don’t tell you why a senator voted for it or debate on the House floor even doesn’t tell what individual legislators were thinking.

I think it’s a useful background to have gone through that process to understand the need to be careful when you try and look at legislative intent.

With respect to the Idaho judiciary, what really works and what may need some work?

I think what has been working and what I would like to us continue to expand is the problem-solving courts. I’ve seen those on a first-hand basis. I’ve sat through drug court for hours, mental health court, veterans court, domestic violence court, are all very valuable tools for people. When people see that judges and prosecutors and staff are putting their time in to these courts, over and above their regular schedule a lot of the time, and rooting for people to be able to change their lives in fundamental ways, I think that is a huge sign for people that the courts are fair and open and accessible.

We have to constantly monitor the caseloads that the judges, the trail judges, have to make sure they’re able to handle the caseloads and the respond timely to the issues they’ve got to deal with. That’s not necessarily a problem, but it’s always going to be an issue for us. We’re always going to have to deal with that. As the population keeps growing, we need to make sure our courts are able to handle the growth of the population and the subsequent legal issues we have to respond to.

Some recent Supreme Court decisions have included snide remarks aimed at other justices or at the lawyers or lower court judges involved in a case. How should the decisions be crafted to point out any errors they find without insulting anyone?

I don’t think it’s my personality to be snide or rude and I’ve chaired a committee for 10 years now that’s had some of the most difficult social issues we see in the state and I’ve always tried to be polite to people. More than that, I’ve got a perspective that maybe the other candidates

I’ve tried over 20 jury trials to verdict and I understand the pressures that those attorneys and the judge are in in front of a jury, making split-second decisions. I’m very sympathetic to the trial bench. I’m sympathetic to attorneys that have solo practices and don’t have the time to spend on issues. My diverse background I think is helpful to understand to understand the attorneys and the people who are going to come before the bench.

Robyn Brody

Why do you want to serve on the Idaho Supreme Court?

I feel like after 20 years with a very diverse civil practice I feel like I’ve got something to offer, a perspective that I think that is important for the Idaho Supreme Court to have. Being someone who has represented a very broad range of people and a very broad range of areas is important. And having someone who speaks “small town” is important in Idaho. I understand that, as well.

I litigation of all types. I tell people I handle everything from the widow who comes in off the street and needs her marriage license and can’t figure out how to get that done to Social Security disability to complex real estate deals. I do simple estate planning for folks in my community who need that. I handle local school districts, a local hospital and several community health centers.

How would you describe your judicial philosophy?

When it comes to an appellate role, the job of the Idaho Supreme Court is to get the law right, to make sure they’re looking at the system as a whole. I think it’s careful. It’s deliberate. The court has to understand fundamentally the system of checks and balances. It has to respect the legislative rules.

At the same time, the court has to be willing to sometimes be brave and to act as an important check on the legislature in order to protect the fundamental rights of the people.

With respect to the Idaho judiciary, what really works and what may need some work?

As a whole, I think we have an excellent system. I think statewide we have a good system of judges and I don’t think we have the kinds of problems that sometimes make headlines throughout the rest of the country. I didn’t come seeking this position because I necessarily thought something was broken.

I see it as an opportunity and I think the opportunities that I see available to me and something that I bring that is a little bit different is that practitioner’s perspective, the people perspective

Some recent Supreme Court decisions have included snide remarks aimed at other justices or at the lawyers or lower court judges involved in a case. How should the decisions be crafted to point out any errors they find without insulting anyone?

I’ve heard similar comments from every attorney group that I’ve met with. And I’ve met with a lot of them. If you truly see a problem, something that would warrant the court doing something, then my view is do it. Call judicial counsel, call bar counsel. I don’t believe that legal opinions are the place to address those kinds of circumstances. There are other channels.

Those opinions last forever. If you have a have a young attorney who makes a mistake or a young judge who makes a mistake, I don’t think we need to put that out there for the next 200 years.

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

  Comments