Idaho Statesman

Voters Guide

2014 Treasure Valley Voters Guide

Welcome to our Voter Guide for congressional, state and Ada and Canyon county races. Compare candidates' views on the issues side by side, and create your own ballot, when you can then print or email.

Important dates:

  • April 21 to May 16: Canyon County in-person early voting.
  • April 28 to May 16: Ada County in-person early voting.
  • May 14: Last day to request mail-in absentee ballots.
  • May 20: Election Day. Polls will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots must be returned to county clerks' offices by 8 p.m.

Candidates: Don't see yourself in here? Missed our invitations to participate? Contact to be added.

...Please note: Candidates' responses have not been edited, other than for clarity, language and libel. Some candidates may still be submitting their answers; check back if you don't see them right away. This guide includes all Constitutional, Libertarian and independent candidates, though they may not appear on your actual primary ballot.

Supreme Court Justice - Seat 1

Choose two candidates from below to compare.
  • Candidate picture

    Joel Horton Justice, Idaho Supreme Court

  • Candidate picture

    William "Breck" Seiniger Attorney

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Biographical Information

What makes you a better choice for voters than your opponent(s)?

If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you accomplish them? Please provide specifics.

For challengers: How have you prepared to run for this office? For incumbents: What have been your contributions to your office this term?

What makes you a good choice for serving on the Supreme Court?

Do you see the need for any changes in how the court operates? Are there ways the court could streamline cases or does the time spent developing opinions seem adequate?

If lawyers are prohibited from publicly criticizing judges, should the same standard apply to judges?

Have you been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, a misdemeanor or felony or had a withheld judgment? If so, what, when and where?

Have you or a company you owned filed bankruptcy? If so, when and where?

Age 54
Education B.A., University of Washington (1982), J.D., University of Idaho College of Law (1985)
Prior political experience Magistrate Judge, Ada County (1994-1996), District Judge, Fourth Judicial District (1996-2007), Justice, Idaho Supreme Court (2007-present)
Civic involvement Hope House, Rotary Club of Boise-Sunrise (past president), Idaho Law Foundation (board of directors), Red Cross, Rake up Boise, Paint the Town
Years living in Idaho 44
Family Hon. Carolyn M. Minder, spouse
Experience and an understanding of the requirements of the job. After beginning my legal career as the second lawyer in a small firm in Lewiston, I have devoted the past twenty-eight years to public service, including the past twenty years as a judge. I represented victims of crime for eight years, serving in Twin Falls and Ada counties and as a Deputy Attorney General. I was a family law judge for two years, a district judge for eleven years, and have been a justice of the Idaho Supreme Court for the past seven years. Although there are many traits that are important in a good judge, this campaign has made it clear that there are two which distinguish me from my challenger. First, I am impartial. My opponent's focus on his experience as a personal injury lawyer and his promise to "restore balance" to the Supreme Court is simply a commitment to tilt the scales of justice in favor of one group of litigants who appear before the Court. A justice is not a partisan or an advocate for special interests. Second, I understand how a judge should act. I will not be conducting personal attacks on my opponent. Such conduct is beneath the dignity of one who holds or seeks to hold my office.
My top three priorities have been, and will continue to be: (1) deciding cases before my court fairly, impartially and expeditiously; (2) improving the quality of our criminal justice system; and (3) improving the quality of the administration of justice in this state's trial courts. Decisions from the Idaho Supreme Court literally affect the lives and pocketbooks of every citizen in this state. In reaching these important decisions, I recognize the importance of a level playing field. I carefully consider the arguments and the views of my fellow justices. My job is not to decide cases based upon who I think should win or what I think the law ought to be. I recognize that I am a judge, not a legislator wearing a robe, and I take policy guidance from our Legislature. I will continue to lead the Felony Sentencing Committee, where we continue to explore evidence-based sentencing practices which reduce recidivism and provide offenders with the tools they need to succeed in society. Together with my colleagues, we will install technology and promote the Advancing Justice initiative, which together will speed up cases in the trial courts and reduce costs for litigants
Beyond my contributions to the decisions of our court these past six years, I have chaired the Felony Sentencing Committee, where we have focused on evidence-based sentencing practices. In that role, we worked closely with our partners in the executive and legislative branches on the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. This initiative will reduce our prison population, provide offenders with the programs and supervision they need to succeed, and in the process, save the taxpayers more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the next five years. I have been active in educating lawyers and the general public about the courts and the law throughout Idaho, teaching at Citizens Law Academies, continuing legal education programs for lawyers, as well as speaking to service organizations and lawyer organizations. I have been an ethics mentor for beginning law students at both law schools. I have chaired the Death Penalty Qualification Committee, which evaluates lawyer qualifications to represent defendants in such cases, previously chaired and presently serve on the Judicial Education Committee, and am on the Administrative Conference, which addresses statewide challenges to the judiciary.
The same things that led to my appointment as a judge three times in the past. Before judges are appointed, lawyers are surveyed as to the candidates' qualifications. Lawyers are asked to do this because they know that certain characteristics make a good judge and, unlike the general public, know who the good (and not-so-good) lawyers are. The lawyers know that there are personal traits, like temperament, intelligence and work ethic, that are important to the people whose cases are to be decided. They also evaluate other skills, such as legal research and writing, that are critical to doing the judge's job well. Each time I was appointed, first as a family law judge, then as a district judge, and most recently as a justice, the lawyers have given me high marks for integrity and independence, knowledge and understanding of the law, judicial temperament and demeanor, and legal ability and experience. On May 5, the public will be able to go to the Idaho State Bar's website at to learn what the lawyers think of me and my challenger.
The Idaho Supreme Court is continually considering innovations that will expedite resolution of cases. For example, we were concerned about the length of time that children were left in a state of uncertainty as to their futures in cases involving child custody or termination of parental rights. We adopted a rule that provides for direct appeals to the Supreme Court and a fast-track briefing and expedited oral argument schedule. The result has been to reduce the time for a final decision in such cases from years to months. Our technological initiative, which will result in the appellate courts being able to see everything that was before the trial court, means that parties will no longer have to wait for copies to be made of paper records. Of course, some cases will take longer than others to decide. Extremely complicated factual or legal issues will always take longer to decide. We will never sacrifice careful thought and consideration in cases that are so important to the parties in the interest of swift decision-making.
Lawyers are not prohibited from publicly criticizing judges. They are prohibited from making a statement that they know to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge. Judges are properly held to a higher standard. Judges are ethically required to "conduct themselves at all times in a manner that does not detract from public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." This means that judges must refrain from publicly criticizing other judges and, in my view, judges should likewise refrain from publicly criticizing lawyers. When a judge becomes aware of an ethical lapse by a fellow judge or a lawyer, the remedy is not public criticism, but referral to the appropriate disciplinary authority.
Age 66
Education University of Massachusetts, Amherst, B.A. cum laude, 1972; University of Idaho College of Law, J.D., 1978.
Prior political experience Speechwr iter, Silvio O. Conti, R-Mass, Candidate for Ada County Prosecutor, Candidate for Idaho Legislature
Civic involvement Idaho Brain Injury Association, Past Member Board of Directors; my civic involvement has primarily been through my professional activities.
Years living in Idaho 1975 - present.
Family I am married to Julie Marsh Seiniger, an attorney who previously worked as an attorney at Boise Cascade. We have three adult children - a stepson, a son, and a daughter. We also have a twelve year old daughter adopted from China.
I have run a small business representing ordinary citizens in all types of legal disputes for 35 years. I have not sought to advance myself by obtaining positions of power and connections to climb a professional ladder. Rather, my legal skills have been forged in the fires of advocacy on behalf of ordinary Idaho citizens who could not afford legal representation unless I was willing to risk my time and resources because I believed in their cause. In doing so, I have earned the highest rating for legal ability and integrity. I have a passion for fairness and justice that I intend to bring to the Idaho Supreme Court to insure that everyone plays on a level playing field with rules that favor no one. My opponent is a career-government employee who is out of touch with ordinary Idaho citizens, and the need to insure that their rights and interests are not swallowed up by a judicial system that infringes upon their right to a jury trial and by laws that cater to special interests. The best evidence that my opponent is out of touch is his refusal to acknowledge the need to recuse himself when there is an appearance impropriety. See _excuses.
Recently, the Idaho Supreme Court has been brought into national disrepute by the issuance of an opinion in which justices traded accusations including “scurrilous and unfounded personal attacks,” lying, falsification of the record, lacking integrity, and deciding cases based on who they want to win. Decisions unnecessarily criticize lawyers and judges. Lawyers complain privately that written decisions of the Court often misstate the arguments of losing parties and the facts on which they rely, stray into issues that are not before the Court, and that opinions engage in extraneous speculation about hypothetical situations not before the Court, undermining predictability and the reliability of legal precedents. By confining my decisions to the facts and issues actually presented in an appeal, I hope to set an example that will return the Court's practices to traditional standards of jurisprudence. Second, I will oppose procedures that invade of the constitutionally mandated province of the jury, and give due consideration to constitutional challenges of arbitrary government action. Third, I will oppose rules that are hyper-technical and favor one side over another.
First, I received a world class legal education at the University of Idaho College of Law due in no small part to the generous support of Idaho's citizens to higher education. Thank you. I have been through the fire, handling all kinds of cases for 35 years, working in the trenches, being honored by the trust of Idahoans whose rights depend on Idaho's judicial system, and fighting "David vs. Goliath" battles against huge corporations, the insurance industry and the government, almost always at my own financial expense and risk. As a result, I have developed my legal skills to the point that I have been recognized by U.S. News, Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers based on anonymous lawyer nominations. I have worked on the ISC's Civil Rules Committee for many years. I have worked on and/or chaired numerous committees of the Idaho State Bar, and received its award for outstanding service to the profession. Most importantly, I have fought side-by-side for years at a time, for wonderful Idahoans and their families caught up in a legal system that increasingly limits their right to a jury trial in ways I think most judges do not appreciate. I hope to change that.
There is a Roman maxim "Reason is the soul of the law." I think for myself, consider the big picture as opposed to adopting a narrow legalistic perspective, and I am passionate about fairness and justice. Most of my cases are contingent, and our family often goes hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to pay for costs so that my clients can have their day in Court. I have no government paycheck to count on, so I am acutely aware of the need for the judicial system to operate efficiently. Our judicial system increasingly disregards the paramount goal of serving justice in favor of procedural technicalities and the need to move cases through the system because of pressures put on Idaho's overworked judges. Special interests constantly clamor for legislated advantages in the judicial process, many of which potentially infringe on constitutional rights. The "justice system" must deliver justice, not just "dispute resolution." I have not shrunk from raising candid challenges to Idaho's Judicial System and judges when necessary. I will be a voice of reason on the Court, dedicated to the spirit of justice and the law. Working with other justices I respect, we will get it right.
As to the ISC, its inner workings are not sufficiently transparent to allow me to access the need for changes in its deliberative process. According to my opponent, he felt that he did not need to recuse himself in a case in which he had an apparent conflict of interest because the Court essentially decided the case unanimously at the time of hearing, approximately two months before the issuance of the opinion. That raises a number of concerns. If the decision was truly unanimous, why did it take two months to issue the opinion? My understanding is that the Court takes a provisional straw vote on each case, which can change as opinions circulate and in-depth analysis reveals issues that must be addressed or reconsidered so that each opinion can be woven into what Oliver Wendall Holmes called "the seamless web of the law." Procedurally, Idaho's appellate courts generally operate smoothly. I do see a need for a renewed commitment to civility on the Court, in its examination of counsel at hearings, in the drafting of opinions as respects comments concerning lower court judges and attorneys, and, certainly, in one justice's treatment of others as reflected in the recent Nield case
Yes, but lawyers should not be prohibited from publicly criticizing judges. In 1992 I publicly criticized the Idaho Supreme Court for sanctioning a north Idaho lawyer, John Topp, for stating an opinion about a judge. Lawyers should certainly be restrained from intentionally and expressly stating falsehoods about a judge, but the Topp case held that a lawyer could be sanctioned for even stating an opinion if the public might infer that the opinion is based upon "undisclosed facts." As a practical matter, that decision chilled all criticism of judges on any grounds. Believing that Topp's First Amendment rights had been trampled on, I contacted him and volunteered to represent him for free before the United States Supreme Court. Topp's petition for certiorari was denied (the U.S.S.C. grants only 1.2% of such petitions) so the Topp case stands. I would not agree that Judges should be prohibited from criticizing lawyers, but abusive conduct by judges should be taken far more seriously by the Idaho Judicial Council, and judges should not have the latitude to behave uncivilly on the bench. Courts cannot simply preach civility, they must set the example.