President’s Column: Idaho Supreme Court begins live-streaming arguments, improves public access

By Betsy Russell

In August, the Idaho Supreme Court began live video streaming its oral arguments from its main courtroom in Boise.

That means we can watch and report on them live from anywhere in the state; it’s a great step forward for access.

This is occurring through cooperation between the court and Idaho Public Television, in an expansion of the Idaho Legislature Live streaming service (which is now being renamed “Idaho Live”). At least initially, the streaming will occur only for Supreme Court arguments held in Boise, not for those held elsewhere in the state.

The first set of arguments that was streamed included appeals over a search after a traffic stop when a drug dog alerted on a car; Rex Rammell’s appeal in his lawsuit against the state, then-Gov. Jim Risch and Idaho Fish & Game over the shooting of his escaped domestic elk; the Idaho Wool Growers’ lawsuit against the state regarding bighorn sheep; and the Idaho State Tax Commission’s appeal of a favorable court ruling Pacificorp obtained over the taxable value of its operating property in Idaho.

Many media outlets were able to cover these arguments remotely thanks to the new live streaming, including those located far from Boise but intensely interested in the local matters being argued.

To find the live stream, you can either go to the Idaho Supreme Court’s website,, or to IPTV’s live streaming page, The Supreme Court’s website also includes links to its calendars, including summaries of cases up for upcoming arguments.

Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Burdick wrote a letter to Idaho Press Club members in August highlighting a number of steps the court is taking to improve public and media access, including the new live-streaming; that letter is reprinted below. It is also posted on the Press Club’s website in PDF form, including links to everything from the court’s Media Guide to its Data Repository, in which you can check court records, including lawsuits and traffic citations, online in a search by name.

Here’s the text of the letter:

August 17, 2012

Dear Idaho Press Club Member:

I am writing to update you on our efforts to promote the openness and accountability of the Idaho courts.

It is a great honor to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In an effort to ensure that the tradition of independence and innovation is at the forefront of everything we do as a public institution, the Idaho Courts recently revised its mission statement, goals, and values that reflect our priorities and our commitment. Please click here to read our mission, values, and strategic goals.

Openness and Accountability: The Supreme Court promotes openness and accountability through the expanded use of the Court’s Web site. Please click here to read about our strategies to do so. We also hope you find our new Website informative and easy to use. We also consider suggestions for improvement online.

Media Guide to the Idaho Courts: The Media and the Courts Committee maintains a Media Guide to the Idaho Courts, and I commend it to you as an excellent resource. It is designed to provide a quick source of basic information for journalists covering the Idaho courts and is available on the Court’s Web site at: with links to rules, statutes, and other information.

Idaho Supreme Court Data Repository: The Data Repository allows you to search our court records database for pending and closed district court and magistrate division case information. Electronic records are available from 1995 forward, although some information for older cases may be available. The information is displayed according to Idaho Administrative Rule 32. Work is currently underway so that appellate court records will be available later this year.

Access to Court Records: While our long-term strategy is to provide electronic access to all documents, a statewide protocol is being developed to ensure you can readily request and receive documents from case files. The protocol will be discussed by Clerks of the District Court on Aug. 21.

Court Opinion Service

Steve Kenyon, the Clerk of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, provides a service in which all media outlets that provide an email address to the Court will receive an email with appropriate links to our Web site when the Supreme Court issues an opinion. Please send your email address to Mr. Kenyon ( if you are interested in this service. We also have available to you a Twitter account for opinions issued. All opinions issued, as well as orders of significant statewide interest, continue to be posted on the Court’s Web site for your convenience. A summary of the opinion is also available to you, with the county of origin noted for your convenience.

has been meeting at least annually to ensure open and productive communication among the media, the courts, and the Bar, to address matters of significant interest to the media and the courts. We invite and appreciate your suggestions and agenda items, which may be transmitted to the Administrative Director of the Courts, Patti Tobias, at (208) 334-2246 or via email

Idaho Public Television

I am particularly pleased to announce that beginning August 20, 2012, all Supreme Court oral arguments scheduled for hearing in Boise will be web-streamed live statewide by Idaho Public Television. Look on our Website for more information!

Please let us know of issues of interest to you. If you have other suggestions that would assist you in covering the Idaho courts, please let us know. We look forward to hearing from you.


Roger S. Burdick

Chief Justice

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