I was really pleased to participate in the recent investiture ceremony for an Idaho judge, Randy Smith, who will now serve on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. I’ve always though it was important that all 50 states be well-represented in all three branches of government, not just Congress. Why does it matter for Idaho to have a voice in the judicial branch? Judges are supposed to be impartial, and their personal philosophy or experiences shouldn’t influence how they judge a case, right? That is true, to a point.

In theory, a judge from Maine ought to reach the same decision in a case as a judge from Arizona. In practice, issues can have different significance to different regions. Indeed, Congress recognized that there can even be diversity within distinct geographic regions of America. The unique characteristics of a state may shape the relevant experience and, hence, perspective of a judge from that state. That’s part of the reason why Congress changed federal law in 1997 to ensure that on every federal Court of Appeals there would be at least one circuit judge appointed from among the residents of each state contained in that federal circuit.

Having presided, in his career in Idaho, over more than 6,000 criminal and civil cases, 50 trials and 100 appeals, and having mediated more than 700 state and federal cases, Randy Smith understands Idaho law and the issues facing the people of our state. President Bush could not have made a better choice to bring an Idaho perspective to the Ninth Circuit.