State Politics

Twin Falls judge now being considered for federal judgeship

Boise attorney Erika Malmen is no longer being considered as a nominee to become Idaho’s next U.S. District judge, according to multiple sources.

Instead, the White House is now vetting an alternate candidate proposed by Idaho's two U.S. senators, Idaho 5th District Administrative Judge G. Richard Bevan. He’s now undergone some of the same federal background checks and interviews that Malmen underwent in the fall, according to multiple sources.

Malmen, and now Bevan, were proposed to the White House by Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, who have held a secretive process in which they’ve personally interviewed an array of applicants. The two senators have been mum about the process they’re going through, but after an outcry from female members of the Idaho Bar last spring when news surfaced that they had interviewed only four men for the lifetime appointment, Risch and Crapo publicly announced that they were interviewing both men and women, and several prominent female Idaho attorneys were subsequently interviewed.

Longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge took senior status in July, a move he had announced the previous September. That’s left Idaho, for now, with just one district judge, Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill. He’s announced plans to bring in visiting judges from other states to hear cases while Idaho awaits an appointment to replace Lodge.

Federal district judges are nominated by the president — Democrat Barack Obama — and confirmed by the Senate. But under current Senate practices, the two home-state senators have a virtual veto over any White House nominee, forcing them to work together.

Bevan has served as a 5th District judge for the past 12 years, and previously practiced law in Twin Falls as a partner in Hollifield & Bevan PA. He also served as Twin Falls County prosecutor, a position to which he was elected as a Republican. Bevan holds both bachelor’s (business management and finance) and law degrees from Brigham Young University.

Malmen, 41, was a controversial choice, in part because her law practice has been largely limited to environmental administrative law, representing timber and mining interests and land developers, and she failed to make the short list when she applied through a merit process for a state judgeship in May. While she’s not well-known in the state’s legal community, everyone involved in Idaho politics knows her husband: Jeff Malmen was chief of staff to two Idaho governors, including current Gov. Butch Otter, has run top-level campaigns, and is now the vice president of Idaho Power, the prominent and politically powerful utility.

Idaho Power has long been closely linked to Risch, who represented it for years in his private law practice, and who has received $20,000 in campaign donations from the utility’s political action committee for his U.S. Senate campaigns. Crapo also has benefited from Idaho Power campaign contributions, receiving $12,500 from the IDA-PAC Political Action Committee since 2000.

Idaho is the only state in the 9th Circuit that’s never had a female U.S. district judge; it’s one of just two in the nation. It’s also one of just three states with only two U.S. district judges; it hasn’t gotten an additional judgeship in 60 years, though its caseloads have soared.

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