Eric Wildman, staff attorney for the SRBA court for just over a decade working for three (of the four) presiding judges, was sworn in as a district judge on January 14.
On the district court bench, he replaces Judge Barry Wood, whose has been chambered in Gooding County. But he also moved in right away to take charge at the SRBA, and appeared at the January 19 information meeting and status conference.
Wildman takes over the SRBA at a point when many – but certainly not all – legal issues have been settled, and the case appeared headed toward a conclusion in the next few years if the last 4,500 or so disputed cases can be resolved.
As staff attorney, he has provided much of the institutional continuity in the case – so that processes and rulings maintain some consistency from judge to judge. “I’ll maintain the continuity of the case,” he said. “Claimants and litigants shouldn’t expect any surprises.”
A key task will be pushing the SRBA through to completion: “That’s the intent and expectation,” he said.
But he also takes over as the court expands its work in two areas: The North Idaho Adjudication and its centralized role handling administrative appeals from the Idaho Department of Water Resources.
The Idaho Supreme Court ordered on December 9 that the SRBA Court will handle appeals in administration of water rights from the Idaho Department of Water Resources.
The order could be taken as building a base for a more permanent role for the SRBA court even after adjudications are completed. It could become what is called in other states a water court.
The order, signed by Chief Justice Daniel Eismann, notes that “any person who is aggrieved by a final decision or order of the Director of the Department of Water Resources is entitled to judicial review,” and that “there is a need for consistency and uniformity in judicial decisions regarding the administration of water rights.”
The order specifically said that “all petitions for judicial review of any decision regarding the administration of water rights from the Department of Water Resources shall be assigned to the presiding judge of the Snake River Basin Adjudication District Court of the fifth Judicial District. Review shall be held in accord with Title 67, chapter 52 of the Idaho Code, except that, once filed, all petitions for judicial review shall be forwarded to the clerk of the [SRBA Court].”
The order was not designated to be effective until July 1.
Wildman made clear, in an interview with the Digest, that he is working through how best to manage the court’s expanded role, even as it works to bring the SRBA to conclusion. Continue Reading »