Chairman eyes change in justice selection process |

Chairman eyes change in justice selection process

by Sheila Gardner

With nearly three dozen candidates for East Fork justice of the peace, Commission Chairman Mike Olson said Tuesday he hopes to slow down the process.

Commissioners are set to consider Thursday filling the vacancy created by the Aug. 6 resignation of Justice Jim EnEarl, who had two more years in his six-year term.

The job pays $103,417.60 annually and had minimal requirements, prompting 35 people to apply.

The item is agendized for 3-1/2 hours on Thursday’s commission agenda.

Original plans called for each candidate to give a three-minute speech to the board, followed by deliberation and possible appointment of the new judge.

Olson said he spent the weekend contacting the candidates to advise them he was recommending the board slow the procedure down by a couple of months.

“If we’re looking at hearing from 30-35 people on Thursday, I don’t think it’s a fair shake for all the applicants,” Olson said. “If you’re no. 28, what’s to differentiate you from no. 2?”

Olson said he would like to develop a questionnaire for the candidates and put together a committee to review the applications.

“I’ve never appointed a judge,” he said. “I want to make sure we choose the most qualified person to do the best job.”

He said he envisions a committee bringing back a more manageable list of candidates who would face additional scrutiny by the board.

“I’m not sure who would sit on the committee, possibly a judge, the district attorney, the county manager and the director of human resources. They would bring back a list of the most qualified. I’m not saying it would be restricted to the top three or the top 10,” he said.

Olson said he told the applicants to come Thursday prepared to make their statements because his motion has to be introduced and approved by commissioners. They could turn him down and decide to proceed with the decision Thursday.

Olson said he felt the position was too important for a rush to judgment.

“I don’t want people to feel they have to rush this,” he said. “I think they can treat the applicants a little more fairly with more opportunity to express their points of view. I have told all of them to show up. My recommendation has to get voted on. I told them to be prepared for three minutes, but if it doesn’t happen, not to be surprised.”

Olson said Senior Judge Steven McMorris was agreeable to continue to serve as acting East Fork justice. McMorris was elected as Tahoe Township justice between 1981-2001.

He is under contract with the county at $9,881.73 a month.