Magistrate judges have jurisdiction to hear infractions, misdemeanors, felony preliminary hearings, probates, guardianships, conservatorships, divorces, adoptions, termination of parental rights cases, habeas corpus cases, juvenile cases, and civil cases in which the amount of money in dispute does not exceed $10,000.
Most commonly, magistrate judges are assigned to hear all types of cases that are authorized to be filed in the magistrate division of the district court. However, because of the comparatively high volume of cases filed in Ada County, magistrate judges serving Ada County are assigned by the Administrative District Judge to hear specific types of cases. Currently, the assignment of Ada County magistrates is as listed below.
The number of judges to serve in each of the seven judicial districts and their salaries are determined by the Idaho Legislature. Currently, there are 89 magistrate judges serving the state of Idaho, 23 of whom are in the Fourth Judicial District. Idaho magistrate judges are appointed by the District Magistrates Commission of the Judicial District for which they will serve. For case management purposes, a magistrate in one district may also be assigned by the Idaho Supreme Court to hear cases in another district. Additionally, a judge who leaves office or retires may be designated as a senior judge by the Idaho Supreme Court and may be assigned to hear cases in any of the seven judicial districts.
To be qualified as a magistrate judge in Idaho, an individual must be 30 years of age, a qualified elector of the state of Idaho, admitted to practice law for at least five years, currently licensed to practice law in the state of Idaho, and must reside in the county for which he/she is appointed.
Magistrate judges intending to stay in office must stand for general election every four years. The general election in which the magistrate judge’s name appears on the ballot is determined by the timing of the original appointment to the bench. Voters cast their ballot to retain the judge or not retain the judge for a subsequent four-year term (retention election), and only a simple majority vote is required for a magistrate judge to retain the position.