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An origin story for Judge Lodge

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

One might call it the equivalent of the quarterback sneak play, only in this case the quarterback, Ed Lodge, an All American at the position for Boise Junior College, and then a “Little” All American at the College of Idaho, knew nothing about the play.

Edward J. Lodge, who announced this past week he is moving to “senior status” on the 9th Federal District Bench as Idaho’s chief federal judge, is basking in an outporing of well deserved praise. He has presided over virtually every major, complicated Federal case in Idaho over the past 25 years: Two examples are the Ruby Ridge trial in which a jury, expertly guided by the fair and impartial Lodge, acquitted Randy Weaver; and, the murder trial of Claude Dallas, the self-styled survivalist and trapper who coldly killed two Idaho Fish and Game agents, Bill Pogue and Conley Elms, in the Owyhee Desert southwest of Boise.

Non-murder cases that Lodge has presided over include the EPA managed Superfund settlement in Idaho’s Silver Valley and his over sight of the Nuclear Waste disposal agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Energy.

President George H.W. Bush, sent Lodge’s name to the Senate Judiciary committee in 1989 at the behest of senior Republican Senator James A. McClure and a virtuallly united Idaho Congressional delegation that included Senator Steve Symms, Congressman Larry Craig from the First District, and the delegation’s lone Democrat, Second District Congressman Richard Stallings.

Even more remarkable for a nomination to the life-time position of a state’s federal district judge, Senator McClure carried in his pocket and read into the record a letter of unqualified endorsement by Idaho’s Democratic governor, Cecil D. Andrus. This bi-partisan support for a Federal judgship is almost unheard of in today’s bitterly partisan environment. Lodge received unanimous confirmation.

Ed Lodge, however, warranted this support. He already had established in Idaho a reputation for probity, common sense, intelligence and an excellent grasp of the law and how it relates to justice.

Born in Caldwell on December 3rd, 1933, he attended school there and graduated from Caldwell H. S., where he starred as the quarterback on the football team. He briefly attended Notre Dame, but quickly grew homesick for the West and skedaddled for home. He then pursued his education, first at Boise Junior College, then graduated in 1957 from the College of Idaho. He received his law degree from the University of Idaho in 1961 and started his rapid rise in the legal field.

By 1965 he had caught the eye and the fancy of many folks, including Canyon County Democrats Bill Brauner and Dean Miller, who knew Lodge both professionally and personally. Thus, when a vacancy came about in Idaho’s 3rd Judicial District, Lodge’s name was being bandied about along with several others.

Ironically, Lodge turned out to have Republican blood in his veins though he has never been viewed as a partisan. His wife, Patti Anne, is currently completing her seventh term as the Republican State Senator from Canyon County’s 11th Legislative district.

In those days there was no Judicial Council to vett candidates and a governor’s power to appoint was uncompromised. Lodge’s personal bio merely says in 1965 he was appointed by the governor to the post.

Who was the brilliant, insightful governor in 1965 that saw all the greatness waiting to spring forth? Well, everyone knows that the governor at that time was Robert E. Smylie nearing the end of his unprecedented third four year term.

Governor Smylie, however, preferred another candidate. So how did Ed Lodge emerge? Here comes one of the great quarterback sneak plays in Idaho political history.

Under Idaho’s Constitution the state’s Lieutenant Governor can exercise all the powers of the Office of the Governor when the governor is out of state. Two north Idaho Democratic legislators, State Rep. Ed Williams of Lewiston, and his good friend, Clearwater County State Senator Cecil D. Andrus, somehow learned that Smylie would shortly be out of state.

They also saw he was leaving for a few days and had not made the 3rd District selection. The two legislators, not particularly happy with the ever-growing arrogance of Smylie, consulted with Brauner and Miller about who they might suggest to fellow Democratic Lt. Governor William Drevlow, of Craigmont, and then convinced him to appoint Lodge.

Drevlow did and of course Smylie was furious but there was nothing he could do about it.

As Paul Harvey used to say as he ended his widely syndicated noon radio broadcast: “And now you know the rest of the story.”

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