President’s Column

An important resource for Idaho journalists

By Betsy Russell

If you’re covering a story from Idaho’s courts, or one that has anything to do with our state’s judiciary, don’t miss the newly revamped online “Media Guide to the Idaho Courts,” which has recently been extensively updated.

The guide is located on the Idaho Supreme Court’s Web site, In the bar on the left, click on “Media Guide,” which gives you two options, a PDF to print out the entire thing, or the handy and highly accessible online guide.

The Idaho Supreme Court’s Media/Courts Committee, on which I serve along with numerous other journalists, judges, lawyers, court officials and others from around the state and which is chaired by the chief justice, used to print up the Media Guide as a pamphlet and distribute it around the state, but the budget crunch and printing costs have trimmed that back. Now, the guide is online, but it’s considerably more extensive and frequently updated.

You’ll also find links to the Media Guide on the Idaho Press Club’s Web site,

In the guide, you’ll find everything from an outline of the state’s judicial structure, to explanation of the special rules we have in Idaho regarding cameras in the courtroom, to information on courthouse etiquette for the media, getting court records, criminal, civil and juvenile proceedings, the appellate process, judicial selection and election, access to jurors and more.

There’s a section on high-interest proceedings, a “View from the Bench” preface from then-6th District Judge Ron Bush (now a federal district judge) on the interplay between reporters and judges, a second section in the preface that explains why you may find that a judge won’t comment when you’d hoped he or she would, and throughout the guide, active links to such key resources as the actual court rules, judicial calendars, and other sites you’ll want to use.

In the “Getting Court Records” section, you’ll find a link to the Idaho Supreme Court Data Repository, which contains updated basic information on court cases in all 44 counties going back to 1995. This includes speeding tickets, civil lawsuits, criminal cases, you name it. It’s searchable, too.

The data repository went up in 2008, after another Supreme Court committee, on which I also served, spent long months revising the court Rule 32, which governs access to court records, to allow online access to records in Idaho. The basic information it offers is planned as a first step, with more documents to go online in the future.

Especially if you’re headed over to cover a court hearing, check out the guide in advance. It’ll help. And it’s one of those reporting resources in our state that, while maybe not widely known, can save you time, point you in the right direction, and help along the way.

Betsy Russell is a Boise based reporter for The Spokesman-Review, and is the president of the Idaho Press Club.